He Ain’t Andy Lau, but Wah Chai Still Deliver the Goods!November 2, 2013 | 4,556 views
If you haven’t tasted a really good rendition of soft shell crabs before, then come to Wah Chai Seafood. This was my FIRST soft shell crabs experience back in the 90’s.
Soft-shell crab is a culinary term for crabs which have recently molted their old exoskeleton and are still soft. Usually coated in a light batter then deep fried to a crispy finish, this dish is gradually creeping into Japanese restaurants’ menus and several designated Chinese diners or ‘dai chow’ places.
However, I have had my share of lacklustre experience with over-priced, soggy version that did more damage than good to the image of the otherwise addictive delicacy. You can imagine downing pints after pints of beer with a delectable platter of this, seriously.
And tracing my experience with the crabs to the roots, I remember vividly the first bite into my first soft shell crab; shells and all, at Wah Chai Seafood Restaurant in Menglembu. Fast forward almost two decades later, and here I am back at the same diner that seems to have never let go of the leash on the salivating crowd.
My advice to you is to come early, preferably before 7pm on a weekend or public holidays. Anything after that may exert stress to your patience level.
Before I forget, Motormouth would like to wish HAPPY DEEPAVALI to all the Indian readers celebrating the occasion out there. Share with me your precious moments of gathering with family and friends. The endearing moments where everyone’s contributing stories, laughter and munching on homemade muruku’s.
Sambal Belacan Asparagus (RM10/USD3)
Almost instinctively, without the aid of a printed menu, we ordered the soft shell crabs. Thankfully, the crabs are available. Then we were recommended with several fish dishes (you know Chinese diners … it’s part of their KPIs to recommend their fishes; usually starting with the most expensive ones then move down the ladder ...), and settled with the ‘sang yue’ or ikan haruan/snakehead fish cooked in two manners.
The fillets were stir-fried with ginger and scallions (lots of them), doused in a very delicious sauce with hints of Chinese cooking wine. The bones of the fish were used for the snakehead fish soup with bitter gourd and soft beancurd. The soup ended up with a milky appearance (from the boiled fish bones), and tasted incredibly sweet. The slices of bitter gourd cut through the safe combination of flavours with a faint bitter nuance. Exceptional stuff, and one that deserves a try even though you may not be a fan of fish bones (with limited amount of flesh stuck onto the cuts). Alternately, you can also choose to replace the bitter gourd with salted vegetables (ham choy).
Snakehead fish (Ikan Haruan) Soup with Bitter Gourd & Soft Beancurd (part of the duo style of cooking)
Stir Fried Snakehead Fish with Ginger and Scallions (RM45/USD15 for this and the snakehead soup)
The Sambal Belacan Asparagus replaced the Sambal Petai that we initially gunned for. They ran out of my favourite stink beans. Hmm, can’t have the best of all worlds I guess. The asparagus used here is the thicker type, yet not fibrous or hard. No laments, but still … the hankering for a stinkingly-good serving of petai is ever there.
The piece de la resistance; Deep Fried Soft Shell Crabs (RM25/USD8)
And how could I not fall in love again with their soft shell crabs? Crunchy, evenly-coated with the batter that was neither soggy or overly-packed with flour, the crabs deserve any accolades that you have been holding back. Plus, the accompanying condiment of an in-house concoction of sauces (tasted ketchup, chili and possibly Worchestershire, with a sprinkling of sesame seeds) was spot on. I polished off more than half the plate. And still wished for more.
Now, if you’re still not sure of what to order, you can walk over to the Wall of Fame and look at the gorgeous photos on display. Helps a lot if it’s your first time eating here or at a Chinese restaurant without a menu.
The meal came to RM87.60/USD29 for the 3 of us. Not exactly dirt cheap nor a princely sum, I would say this is reasonable given the portion and quality of the ingredients used. If you haven’t explored on eating in Menglembu, then the time is nigh to start NOW.
*Other worthy contenders for your stomach space in Menglembu:
Wonderful Honey Chicken & Wai Sek Kai
Ma Chai Chee Cheong Fun & Nasi Lemak
Yu Dan Zai (Tiny Fish Balls) Noodles
East Ocean Seafood Restaurant
WAH CHAI SEAFOOD (MENGLEMBU)
53,55,57, Jalan Besar, 31450 Menglembu, Ipoh, Perak.
Business Hours : Lunch from 11.30am – 2.30pm and Dinner (from about 6pm onwards)
Tel No : +605-281 1399
GPS Coordinate : 4.564693,101.045529
Opposite of RHB Bank, same row as Public Bank along the main road of Menglembu