Under Spicy Crab/Chilli Crab Under the Bridge
If you want your chilli crab the way they used to serve it in Hong Kong’s typhoon shelters before they pushed the boat people onto land, try a place with two names: Chilli Crab Under the Bridge and, somewhat confusingly at the top of the menu, Under Spicy Crab. The owner, Wong Ching-tuen, first opened Under Spicy Crab as a 22-table restaurant around the corner on Lockhart Road 20 years ago. Its success led the Fujianese owner to open the second place on Canal Street. Improbably, it’s the tiny, six-table restaurant that customers throng to. The menu is in Chinese, but the walls are covered with pictures of the dishes and you can just point and eat. Both are open from early evening to early morning and attract a yeasty clientele of late-night Wan Chai revellers, late-shift Chinese detectives and Canto celebrities eager to have their pictures taken and stuck on the walls.
Eating chilli crab is a messy business and Under Spicy Crab solves that problem by encasing its tables with clear plastic held in place with sticky tape. Its napkins are a full roll of toilet tissue inside a plastic container, Southeast Asian style, and it’s possible to use most of a roll before you fight your way through a full crab. Wong will wave a large crab at you, claws wriggling, for your inspection. Cracked immediately and wok-fried, it arrives at the table smothered under a large mound of minced, fried garlic mixed with mashed chillies and spring onions and what Wong calls “secret ingredients.” Digging through the mound takes fingers, which is likely to send a rivulet of chilli and garlic coursing down your arms. Don’t be embarrassed: you won’t be alone. After you send your taste buds into orbit, you can calm them down a bit with traditional Cantonese clams fried with chillis and black bean sauce, or fried prawn with cashew. And it’s best to drink plenty of beer, the colder the better. Wong will provide a bucket of ice.