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Under Bridge Spicy Crab in Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Let’s make a generalisation – good food rarely has repercussions. Bad food often does. Good food means you live as long as an old age pensioner from Okinawa and look as well preserved as a Parisian lady. Bad food means you look like you came from Southern USA and live as long as a Glaswegian. Statistics tell us this (though please visit Glasgow as it is ethereal).

What I can’t explain is that the best meal I have had in Hong Kong came from Under Bridge Spicy Crab and left me a hollow shell. This was not food poisoning, this was MSG overload, garlic mega death. The result was levels of head pain which were reminiscent of getting drunk and suffering a hangover at 5,000ft in Bolivia. Still, would I go back? Yes, tonight, and tomorrow.

By way of a bit of background typhoon shelter crab is one of Hong Kong’s specialities. It’s name comes from small ships hiding from typhoons in typhoon shelters or small bays in Hong Kong. Before central Hong Kong became a strip of air conditioned shopping malls there used to be a sizeable population of fishermen whose developed a semi independent culture. One of the dishes from this culture is typhoon shelter crab which is crab meat, minced garlic, onion or shallots, red chilli and black beans. Under Bridge Spicy Crab and its four branches are renouned as the place to go for it.
So enough about the history… What about the food? Superlative. The sides, for me, stood out. We ordered fried tofu and the sauteed green beans with black beans and mince pork. Both dishes were outrageously good – fresh, light, garliced and spiced. Whilst I was barely looking up from those Jen started burrowing into the crab.
Initially you pick the crab out a of a polystyrene box on the street. It is presented to you bound like a poor prisoner and you send it off to the steamer. It comes out drowned in minced garlic and shallots and spice. The crab meat is light and flavoursome and the minced garlic it is embedded in demands to be eaten. Having gone through the agony of ultimate MSG poisoning (which I didn’t believe in till I experienced it…), I can confirm it uses MSG. But I don’t regret it.
The final thing I learnt is that I still have a long way until I can eat like a Hong Konger.  Jen was happily ripping apart whole limbs of the crab with her hands and teeth.  I was using the pincers and firing crab around the restaurant *shame*.
  • Price – 500 to 600hkd or 45 quid for two
  • Shop B, G/F, 401-403 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

10 Comments

  1. Razlan

    OMG, I am ashamed of myself. You actually tried this already. I shall go this weekend to make it up!

  2. Tess

    Speaking of weird food reactions, last night I had the Thrice-Cooked-Bacon-Without-the-Bacon from missionchinesefood.com, a place I am dying to take you & Jen. It is a Chinese restaurant inside another Chinese restaurant. Anyway, the dish is described as "rice cakes, bitter melon, tofu skins, black beans, leek, chili oil", but there were some scary looking whole red peppers. & the slices of jalapeno, perhaps? I did my best to avoid them all, but soon…my face felt like it was falling asleep. Like, tingly, numb, and about to fall off… So what's that all about?

  3. Mr Noodles

    You snooze, you lose. Good for Jen for taking advantage of your slowness in tackling the crab. Next time you come here, order some plain congee as a side. It helps take the edge off the 'full-on' assault on the senses.

    I also find it quite weird that this HK dish packs more of a punch then Singapore's chilli crab given that the latter has a reputation for spicy food.

  4. Little Miss Random

    I have been told that drinking Coke helps with MSG headaches. I don't get such headaches, so I can't vouch for it!

    And careful using teeth when breaking crab shells; my dad just cracked a tooth a few weeks ago doing the same thing.

    And I just noticed I got linked on your blog. Whoa. Thanks! :D

  5. Wild Boar

    I miss that crab…

    Someone commented on my post before that he knows people who would take jars along when they eat the Typhoon Shelter Crab to take home the remains of the garlic garnish thingy. As with Mr Noodle's comment, it would have been excellent with a bowl of plain porridge (or congee as some call it).

  6. Gourtmet Butcher

    Mmmmmmm crab sounds delicuous you guys!!! You seemed to have a quite a few little dishes of £45 for the two of you! Great images,

  7. Tom

    Razlam – it is incredible. Can't recommend it enough.

    Tess – that does sound more than strange. Seriously strange. I speculate a similar case of angry MSG/ spice poisoning. But I bet it tasty incredible right?

    Mr Noodles – thanks for the tip. I needed something. It was like an immediately hangover – I've never had it before but I suppose European restaurants might be a bit more timid with MSG? I have never seen anyone love the crab like Jen did. If you mention it to her she still mutters under her breath with joy.

    Little Miss – I suppose the beers I was drinking did the exact reverse :) I am almost tempted to bring a rehydrating fluid next time.

    Wild Boar – I am still in awe of your trip here. You must have planned like ninjas as I still haven't been to a lot of the places you went to. I am trying to slowly learn but think it might take me half a year to get through as many places! Though congee is my next post and I really do like it.

    Gourtmet butcher – if you ever come out here I would recommend it as the first and last dish you try out here!

  8. Drew

    That looks awesome. In Shanghai we have hairy crab season. Street sellers all over town refit their garages with a wall of tanks. You pay based on the size of the crab's hairy arms… which look like cheerleader's pom poms. We need to add that to your chinagenda

  9. Wild Boar

    Nah, just my wife who was greedy and wanted to eat anything/everything that was supposed to be good. To be fair, most of them were. Anyway you got loads of time, we had to rush around like crazy in one week to hit our spots. My dad said he never experienced such a foodie-intensive trip before.

    Am looking forward to your following posts on HK food. Really wish I can visit HK again.

  10. Tess

    Tom! Update! I happened to read about the concept of Ma La. "Ma means "to numb" and this is achieved by the use of Szechuan peppercorns. Szechuan peppers are not spicy in the way that chile peppers are spicy – they do not cause a burning sensation in your mouth. Rather, they leave a tingly numbness on your lips and tongue." Being a novice, it's no surprise that my entire face felt numb. And yes, it was insanely delicious.

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