Autumn is the season to enjoy hairy crabs, and Yan at the National Gallery has crafted a Hairy Crabs fare just for this short period from 15 November to 15 December 2017. What's interesting to know is that these hairy crabs are from the Netherlands, where waters are known to be much more untouched, hence producing meatier and bigger breeds. While steaming is probably the most ideal and common way to relish their flavours, Yan's culinary team has come out with other ways that you could possibly enjoy.
Xiao Long Bao 4.2/5
Steamed Xiao Long Bao with Hairy Crab Meat 蟹粉小笼包 ($12/pc) is simply ingenious. I thought this would be similar to the common version - 80% pork, 20% crabmeat ratio but this is 100% hairy crab meat that is cooked with superior stock. Hairy crab roe is added when the meat is almost cooked. I took it all in, almost effortlessly in just one slurp. The superior stock is brewed for 8 hours with chicken, ham, pork ribs, resulting in a rich and mouthful filling. The skin was soft with a bite. Sadly, it is only available for lunch only! So do order at least one if you are here for lunch during this period.
Sea Perch Fillet 3.8/5
Other than the roe and the delicate sweet meat that hairy crab is highly prized for, how about its less accessible part - the oil? Part of the Hairy Crab Set Menu is Steamed Sea Perch Fillet 菜脯蒸鲈鱼伴时蔬, a Cantonese style steamed Chilean sea perch fillet with soy sauce, served with preserved turnip and poached seasonal vegetables. While one would definitely love this moist and buttery texture of the fish, what's worth taking your time to savour is also the preserved turnip, that has been stir-fried with miso paste and hairy crab oil. That of course didn't steal the limelight from the fish but adds a depth of flavour to its delicate taste.
Oven-baked Lamb Rack 3/5
Not just seafood, from the land, the set menu offers you a Oven-baked Lamb Rack with Bacon 烟肉烧羊扒. The oven-baked Australian lamb rack is wrapped with bacon, baked in the oven and glazed with malt sugar intermittently. The bony portion is my favourite. The edge was charred with smokey sweetness. The rest of it was however slightly too gamey for me.
The highly anticipated Steamed Hairy Crab 清蒸大闸蟹 made its appearance together with 10 Yrs-Aged Shao Hsing Yellow Wine (17%) 十年陈特醇绍兴酒 Wine ($60++ per bottle). As hairy crabs are believed to be ‘cooling’ for the body, it is recommended to pair hairy crabs with something “warm” to bring your 'qi' to a balance. The wine is of course optional but whether or not for health reasons, a sip of the wine in between the nibbling of the hairy crab meat will make your annual affair with the crab even more intimate and memorable. A preserved plum is dropped into your wine, which kinda elevates its fragrance and creates a mellow sweetness which I really like. Being a male, it seems that the crab didn't deliver the kind of meatiness that we expected it to be.
Poached Japanese Noodles with Hairy Crab Meat 4/5
A similar approach to mentaiko pasta, Poached Japanese Noodles with Hairy Crab Meat 蟹粉稻庭面 ($16.80 per portion) accentuates the essence of a hairy crab by ways of contrasting textures, flavours and colours. The hairy crab meat is cooked with superior stock and roe is only added when the meat is almost cooked. With two ingredients that are delicate in their own ways coming together and complementing each other, its a dish that allows me to take in the wonderful flavours of both the crab and the somen.
Glutinous Rice Ball 4/5
Rounding off the meal is a Hot Ginger Soup with Peach Resin and Glutinous Rice Ball 姜汁桃胶汤圆. It is comforting, warm sweetness goes all the way into stomach and my soul. Simple bliss.
Hairy Crabs Feast is available from 15 November to 15 December at $68++ per piece on a la carte menu and set menu at $128 per person. Although I find the process of breaking down the hairy crab quite therapeutic, perhaps due to the lack of roe, I would probably head down to Yan for lunch where I get to savour the Xiao Long Bao, along with my silky Japanese noodles.
Words and photos by Si An. A girl who is allured by travelling, loves the feel of freedom, smell of the rain and the aroma of fine coffee and food. Note: This is an invited tasting.
Yan Restaurant (宴)
National Gallery Singapore
1 St Andrew's Road
Tel: +65 63845585
Nearest MRT: City Hall (EW Line, NS Line)
Daily: 1130am - 230pm, 6pm - 1030pm
1) Alight at City Hall MRT station. Take Exit D. Turn left and walk down North Bridge Road. Turn left onto Coleman Street. Walk down Coleman Street. Walk to destination. Journey time around 5 minutes. [Map]