The Quest for Chilli Crab

Lynn woke bright and early this morning to say one last goodbye to Rubaina. Her and Tawfiq were heading to Vietnam for their own adventure that evening so we wouldn’t be able to see each other before she needed to head to the airport. It was sad to say goodbye because we don’t know when we will meet again, but we certainly hope it will be within less than 5 years.

The remainder of the morning was spent giving ourselves headaches attempting to figure out what our upcoming travel plans would be. On Tuesday, Lombok’s volcano started spewing ash into the air forcing Bali’s airport to close for an unknown amount of time. It had been a day and a half with no end in sight and we were due to be on a plane to the island the following morning. We used our web skills to figure out various options from flying instead to the Maldives, Phillipines, or East Tioman (some of those may have been suggesions from friends) to ferrying to nearby Indonesian islands or bussing through Malaysia. By 11 am we weren’t settled on any of them, so we decided to stop thinking about it until the early afternoon when our airline, TigerAir, would be making an announcement about future flights to Bali. Instead we hopped on a bus to Little India to meet Tawfiq for a final lunch before his departure.

We met him at the Mustafa Centre where he had been exchanging money for his trip. After an eventful and traffic-filled ride through the neighborhood we ended up at a biryani restaurant where Tawfiq promptly ordered us some mutton biryanis and lassis. Tawfiq had wanted to bring us here since learning of Doug’s love for pepper because the rice was particularly peppery. It did not disappoint. Doug loved the level of pepper even if it forced him to use a the accompanying yogurt sauce to cool his mouth. It seems he hasn’t quite reached Lynn’s level of heat. For dessert Tawfiq recommended kulfi, a frozen custard with pistachios, which may just now be a new favorite. Time to find a recipe!

Mutton biryani
Mutton biryani
Little India's Deepavali decorations
Little India’s Deepavali decorations

Tawfiq had a few more errands to complete before he needed to be at the airport, so after lunch we said another sad goodbye (We are really going to miss you two – Chandu also!). The two of us walked a few blocks over to a nearby shopping mall to see what movies were being shown. After walking 15.5+ miles each of the past two days, we decided to give our feet a break and sit in the cold A/C while being mildly entertained with the latest James Bond movie, Spectre. Needless to say, it was not good.

The movie ended around 5:30 pm at which point we pulled out our phones to check the latest volcano status and were greeted with good news. The winds had shifted allowing flights to proceed… for now. Feeling we could do no more we instead set our sights on dinner. We were determined to get Doug some of Singapore’s famed dish, chilli crab. Tawfiq had given us a recommendation, but we learned too late that they didn’t have any seats left for the evening. It was at this point that Doug pointed out that he had not yet been to a real hawker center so we decided to make this our new dinner plan. From Little India we took off on foot towards Lau Pa Sat, the largest hawker center in Singapore. The 3 mile walk turned into 4 so that Doug could check out Fort Canning Park along the way.

We arrived and agreed to a plan. First, we would find reasonably priced chilli crab. Next, we would share other hawker food (TBD). Lastly, we would eat sesame balls. First things first. We approached a few seafood stalls getting their chilli crab prices and agreed to a location selling a small crab for S$35 (yes, this is the inexpensive price). We ordered 1 with a set of steamed buns then patiently awaited its arrival. When in came 10 minutes later we dug right in being sure to get our hands as dirty as possible ripping out claws and dipping the buns in the gooey sauce. Doug finished first and though he was quite pleased with Singapore’s chilli crab, he preferred Cambodia’s pepper crab. Of course. He then went on to discover a new form of hand washing. Step 1 – Lick fingers, palms, and wrists clean. Step 2 – Steal an ice cube from your finished watermelon juice and stick it in your mouth to remove the remaining watermelon. Step 3 – Rub the ice cube on your hands. Voilà, you are now clean…. Yeah.

Chilli crab and steamed bus
Chilli crab and steamed bus

We roamed the rest of the 40+ stalls that were still open and ate ourselves silly as you can see in the pictures below.

Ruby red with sago ice dessert
Ruby red with sago ice dessert
Roast chicken and wanton noodles
Roast chicken and wanton noodles
Custard bun and peanut butter sesame balls (they have been found!)
Custard bun and peanut butter sesame balls (they have been found!)

By now it was getting to be 8 pm and we still needed to get back to Rubaina and Tawfiq’s (they even let us stay while they were gone) to pack, but felt we needed to work off all that food. Plus it was now nighttime, a good time to see the lights along Clarke Quay and Orchard Road. We walked the route, stopping briefly to admire the skyline and watch people be terrified on the reverse bungee and extreme swing rides. By the time we had reached the end of Orchard where we would get our bus it was 10 pm and it was 11 pm when we arrived back at the apartment.  Looks like we weren’t getting much sleep tonight seeing how we needed to be up in 5 hours. We did some quick packing before crawling into bed.

Singapore's skyline from Clarke Quay. We'll miss you!
Singapore’s skyline from Clarke Quay. We’ll miss you!

Daily Walking Mileage: 13.9

Fun Facts:

  • Fort Canning was used as Stamford Raffles’, the founder of British Singapore, first residence. Later Raffles turned it into Singapore’s first botanical garden. By the mid 1800s it had been turned into British military fort, giving the hill its present name.
  • Singapore became its own nation when it was expelled from the Federation of Malaya after escalating racial tension amongst the Malays, Chinese, and Muslims. It is the only country in the modern world to have gained independence against its own will. We think it is doing just fine on its own.
  • Visibility is not the main concern when it comes to flying during a volcanic eruption. Instead it is the ash. It is abrasive, can jam gears, and lead to engine flameout. So, we are really hoping Lombok cools itself so we can get in and out without issue. Otherwise we may be seeking alternatives.

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