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Secrets of the Under Bridge Spicy Crab
We visit Wong Ching Tuen’s Under Bridge Spicy Crab to find out just how this crab managed to take over the city
Wong Ching Tuen, the 49-year-old proprietor of Under Bridge Spicy Crab, can recall the days when the restaurant was just a dai pai dong under the Jaffe Road bypass.
"It is right at this corner 21 years ago," said Wong. "We had more than 20 big tables. You can imagine how massive and crowded it was."
In the past, foodies flocked to Causeway Bay for the delectable seafood that is caught, cooked and served in the neighborhood’s typhoon shelters and dai pai dongs. But as the government clamped down on street eateries, Wong moved his business to a small store in the area.
Fifteen years later, the humble greasy spoon has expanded to four branches in Hong Kong. Wong's restaurant, Under Bridge Spicy Crab, is one of our highly recommended picks for Hong Kong's best seafood in the CNNGo Best Eats 2010 selection.
Wong continues to serve one of the most authentic and mouthwatering typhoon shelter crabs in Hong Kong today.
"We make sure we get the freshest ingredients to keep our quality consistent," said Wong.
The owner heads to Hong Kong's fish markets from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. every morning to fight off other buyers for the best crabs from Vietnam and Australia. He gives us tips on picking the cream of the crop.
"First, weigh the crab with your hand. Then, press the stomach of the crab to feel if it is plump inside or not," Wong says.
The crowning glory of Wong’s typhoon-shelter crab dish is the home-made chili sauce, a secret recipe that Wong refuses to share.
Wong and his wife Angie work around the clock at their outlets to maintain a consistent quality at each of them.
"It’s hard work. I want to pass on my business to my sons but they refused," says Wong.
Despite their refusal to follow in his footsteps, Wong wears a proud smile when referring to his sons.
"But they are both doing well with their own careers, so I’m content just to have visitors from all over the world to try our dish."
Wong has more satisfaction in store as his fifth and latest branch opens in Guangzhou in China on October 12.
How to prepare Under Bridge Spicy Crab
1. Use the spine of your knife to chop off the two big claws. Remove the top shell.
2. Use your finger to clean the hollows in between the flesh and under the top shell.
3. Scrub the rest of the crab thoroughly under running water.
4. Chop off the crab legs.
5. Chop the crab into smaller pieces, horizontally between the bottom claws, then continue up to the head of the crab.
To deep fry:
1. First, prepare the oil. To make sure the taste has complexity, Wong starts with three bowls of oil with different flavors, one of which is spiced, the other seasoned. Mix all three bowls of oil together in a wok.
2. Different parts of the crab have to be put into the wok at different times. Put the claws in first, then the top shell immediately after. Then, within a minute, throw in all the other parts of the crab into the oil. The oil should be boiling at this point.
3. Add in garlic, the secret chili sauce and fermented soybean spices. Adjust the quantity according to personal taste.
4. Simmer the crab in the oil and spices until the crab turns yellow. "It is easy to get this part wrong. A two-second difference can ruin the dish. Crabs can easily be undercooked or overdone,” says Wong.
5. Pour away most of the oil and add in fresh onions and spring onions. Fry it up, and when you can detect the fragrance of the spices and herbs, it’s ready.