[Penang] Flower crab dinner at Tai Thong, Juru

Tai Thong in rustic Juru is one of those out-of-the-way places which only locals know about. It’s a very basic eatery - zinc-roofed, semi-al fresco, with cheap aluminium tables and chairs. And yet, its seafood dishes trump those sold in über-elite, touristy spots in Tanjung Bungah or Batu Ferringhi, and for a fraction of the cost.

We were here for dinner this evening as the flower crabs were in. We ordered the crabs done two ways:

  1. Flower crabs and prawns in Chinese herbal stew - this was a light, soupy stew of flower crabs and large prawns cooked with red dates, wai san (wafer-thin slivers of dried Chinese yam), pak kei (astragalus root), yuk chuk (Solomon’s seal) and kam chou (licorice root). I also noticed fresh coriander root and generous slivers of garlic at the bottom of the claypot. The soup-stew was full of flavour - the rich, seafood broth resultant from the slow-simmering of crab-shells and prawns, given a rounder, more full-bodied taste by the herbs.

  1. Flower crabs in sweet-sour sauce - this is a non-spicy variation of the chili crab dish which is so popular in Singapore. In Malaysia, one generally can’t find Singapore-style chili crabs - the Malaysians prefer their crabs cooked kam heong, which is stir-fried with chilis, minced dried shrimps and curry leaves.

I miss Singapore-style chili crabs during the whole time I lived away from Singapore - during my 7-year sojourn in Kuala Lumpur (2011-2017), we had to order kam heong all the time when ordering crabs. It was simply Malaysia’s answer to Singapore chili crabs. But, I didn’t like the strong, pungent flavours from kam heong. In comparison, sweet-sour crabs has more in common with Singapore chili crab, based on tomatoes and streaked through with beaten egg, but sans the chili-spiciness. So, we ordered the sweet-sour version here. It was really good, and trumped the best ones I find on Penang island. And the flower crabs here had firm, sweet flesh, and ultra-fresh. I finished up every drop of the gravy on that platter.

  1. House special mixed vegetables - this was an interesting dish which used quite a bit of yuba/tofu skin,gingko nuts, wood-ear, hon-shimeji mushrooms, carrots and bok choy greens. A really excellent vegetarian dish.

There were other dishes we noticed on other tables that looked interesting - the steamed fish with soy dressing, topped with golden, crisp-fried garlic crumbs looked real good. So, a return visit is on the cards.

Address
Restoran Tai Thong (上湯花蟹)
Plot 22, Jalan Juru, Kampung Tersusun
14100 Bukit Mertajam, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6019-505 3315
Operating hours: 12pm-3pm, 5.30pm-11.pm Tue-Sun. Closed on Monday.

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That stew is a feast for the eyes…I can only imagine the taste.

And I can’t remember a more fun eating experience with mouths and fingers on fire than picking our way through a platter of Singapore chili crabs. The Malaysian sweet sour rendition looks equally fantastic.

Thanks for keeping up our spirits through these crazy times and reminding us that life WILL get back to normal.

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Messy goodness. I actually hated using my fingers to eat and feeling them all greasy - but there was simply no other way to enjoy this feast than to just dig in. :joy:

Absolutely crazy indeed. We just try and live life the best we can, and leave the rest to fate.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold