by Carmel on June 6, 2014 · 9 comments


This is the time I would normally write a Yummy Files and wrap up our food experiences in Singapore. Instead I’m going to tell you a little story about trying chilli crab, Singapore’s highly lauded and drooled over dish…and why we left the restaurant with a bitter taste in our mouths.

I think we’ve pretty well established here that I’m the one in our relationship who is obsessed with food. Over the years Shawn has become tolerant with my food obsession and perhaps even mildly intrigued by it himself. During a good meal, he might do his best Adam Richman impression to describe the food, showing that a) he’s a ham, but more that b) he’s at least paying attention.


The similarities are uncanny

Upon arriving to Singapore (ok, ok, at least a week before), I started talking about chilli crab. This is a dish that fellow bloggers and friends have spoken so highly of that even the most budget conscious among them will gladly hand over their hard-saved dollars to try it out. I knew I must have the chilli crab.

Deciding on the restaurant where we would purchase our crab was more of a challenge than I expected. There were plenty of recommendations, but I couldn’t pin down exact locations of a couple of them and the best restaurants were generally too far out of town for us given our short stay. We ultimately settled on the large seafood restaurant, Jumbo Seafood, because there were locations near public transportation and our friends Steph and Tony from 20 Years Hence had gone and enjoyed themselves immensely. You can’t beat personal recommendations – especially when said friends are just as food-obsessed.

We left this splurge meal for our last day in Singapore – kind of a celebratory meal before leaving for Malaysia. We arrived early for dinner and without a reservation. We were escorted to Jumbo’s second restaurant down the way, led by a slightly perturbed young lady who obviously had done this more than a few times that day. After 5 minutes of walking, we were starting to wonder if she was actually leading us to a set-up with her big, burly friend who was going to knock us out in an alleyway and take our fancy camera and credit card. However, a few minutes later, we safely emerged from underneath a bridge, we saw the second restaurant and were shown to our seats…only after promising we would vacate them in an hour. We didn’t have a reservation, you know. Silly us.

By this time, my annoyance level was on the rise. Besides being early in the evening, it was also a Monday. We really didn’t see the necessity for a reservation. We sat down and a waitress flew by with a small sign to attach to our table that indicated the time we needed to be done. We made it a rule that we weren’t going to drink in Singapore – it was just too expensive – so when our waiter came by for drink orders, not ordering anything except water seemed to deter him from coming back anytime soon. We had a deadline – didn’t he know?? We were careful not to use the wet napkins or eat the peanuts set in front of us, as this restaurant is known to charge for every little additional item (that still didn’t stop them from charging us anyway).

As we perused the menu, I finally caught a glimpse of the price for the crab – S$40 per kilo. Seriously? And you’re paying for the weight of that shell, too. I knew it was expensive, but holy jeebus. That’s insane. Besides that, we had to order the whole crab.

It was at this point Shawn informed me I was on my own with the crab. I know he doesn’t like fish generally, but I didn’t think he was going to order on top of my already expensive dish.

So I did what any reasonable person would do – I started to cry.

He offered to just eat the crab. I said no, I didn’t want him to eat crab when he really didn’t want to eat crab. That was equally insane. He offered for us to just go. I’m stubborn, though,  and I wasn’t willing to give up. So, we ordered – me with the smallest crab they could get, which was about 1.5 kilos – and Shawn with his beef stir fry.

We sat there silently waiting for our dishes as I attempted to calm myself down and stop crying at our street side table. I think I was embarrassing our Korean table mates – but then again they were too busy taking pictures with the next couple over and playing with their crab (they ordered drinks, so they got to order quickly). Shawn asked what was bothering me. I suddenly felt so overwhelmed by the money and my expectations of the evening. Him not telling me he didn’t want to have chilli crab suddenly felt like a rejection. What I had wanted was to share this momentous eating occasion with my husband and for him to be as excited as I was about it. That was never going to happen. As I said in the 2nd paragraph – he just doesn’t care about food the way I do. However, that did not stop me from expecting it. When you pile on things like bad service and feeling rushed, something’s gotta give and unfortunately, for me, that usually results in tears.


See those puffy eyes? That’s not from the spice of the dish

By the time the chilli crab arrived, I had managed to pull myself together. It was too late to back out now, so I might as well do my best to enjoy it. The crab itself was delicious and the sauce is definitely something I wish I could just get a big vat of to have available by the couch to dip various types of bread and snack foods in. I did my best to sop up as much of it as I could in my allotted eating time with the fried buns we ordered.

Unfortunately, as we walked back from the metro stop in Little India up to our hotel, I suddenly felt very, very ill. The sauce was quite rich, but more likely it was that I had gotten so worked up and my stress levels were so high, my body decided to rebel. Goodbye S$60 crab…

The lesson here is…don’t have expectations. Or, maybe if you’re going to have such high expectations, take some antacids with you.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy June 7, 2014 at 4:18 am

Sorry your night didn’t turn out as planned 🙁 It’s hard not to build up expectations while you travel and I know how disappointing it can be when things don’t work out the way you wanted. Budget stresses are always bad too, we just had a similar experience over the last few weeks in Taiwan which is relatively expensive compared to the rest of Asia; it was stressful having to watch our money all the time, stay in dorm rooms and eat as cheaply as possible.
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Carmel June 8, 2014 at 10:19 am

Budget stresses can sneak up on you, right? It just piles up slowly and then bam! You’re upset over the smallest thing. It’s not like we didn’t know it would be expensive…and Shawn wasn’t even upset about it and he was the one not eating the expensive dinner. Sigh. I have to laugh at myself sometimes or I’d go crazy.


Catherine June 8, 2014 at 7:50 am

“So I did what any reasonable person would do – I started to cry.” Hahaha! I feel mean for laughing at you crying, but this is pretty hilarious. Probably only so funny as it is something I can relate to so well – when I’m in that kind of frame of mind, I will burst into tears over the smallest things!
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Carmel June 8, 2014 at 10:18 am

Don’t feel mean, I totally laugh at myself in retrospect. It’s odd, too, because I rarely cry at other things, but when I get overwhelmed – watch out! Shawn probably should always have tissue for me while we travel.


Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) June 9, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Aw, I’m so sorry to hear that your Chili Crab incident became, well, an incident! I know how easily something like this can be turned personal when the bottom line is simply that your husband doesn’t like seafood and yet it feels like he’s slighting you. And budget stuff can always cause stress—it happens to me frequently now that we’re in Europe as I try to balance eating the things that I want with the prices that I feel are kind of insane (especially here in Italy where we’ve had to pay as much as $70US/night for lodging in some places, which gives us little money to spend on other things… like food.). I just remind myself that the occasional splurge really is ok and that with something like Chili Crab, you really can only get it like that in Singapore so for us it was worth it to spend a bit of extra cash for that experience. It certainly didn’t hurt that we had fun table companions and received great service when we visited Jumbo as well—I’m sorry to hear that they were being so severe and unwelcoming, especially since it was a Monday night.

That said, I kind of wish that Tony hadn’t wanted to share the crab with me, because man… it was so good, I think I could have eaten the whole thing myself! It wasn’t as bad as Koftagate in NYC, but we were definitely wrestling over that last claw… 🙂
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Carmel June 10, 2014 at 8:30 am

It’s weird because I knew it would cost a fortune. I think I was just taking all my anxiety out on Shawn and his lack of enthusiasm for everything I love. Oh expectations…ruining a perfectly good meal yet again.

Koftagate. That story still makes me giggle. I would have liked to watched that…from across the street. Where it was safe.


Sarah Somewhere June 12, 2014 at 8:29 am

Oh I can so relate to this! Were you in Clarke Quay? I can just picture myself doing the same thing! I am slowly learning that the best meals are the unexpected ones, but at least you tried it!!! My best (and only) chili crab was at East Coast Parkway on the road leading to Changi Airport. To. Die. For. And that was just the buns! Xxx
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Carmel June 12, 2014 at 10:44 am

Yes, we were. I’m glad I tried it, I just wish I had left with that lovely post-good-meal feeling rather than, “oh, I’m going to be sick.” The buns were really yummy. Shawn got some of the steamed ones, but I went for the fried buns. Soooo rich.


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