But this fortunate visit took place a few days after a seafood meal for my dad’s birthday. Because no surprise here – Mr Singaporean Dad loves his seafood. So I went through an elaborate and dramatic pre-work of:
- Researching on seafood restaurants that are affordable. (Really trying to avoid paying tourist prices for jumbo’s and mellben’s.)
- Trying to find out if a restaurant serves sustainable seafood. (Trying my best to walk the talk.)
Both search criteria proved difficult:
- There really is no such thing as affordable seafood if you were hoping to google for somewhere with 5 star reviews. So, be prepared to pay.
- Trying to ctrl+f the word “sustainable” on the websites of seafood restaurants was mission impossible. Words like “fresh” and “live” are peppered everywhere on their web pages. But not “sustainable”. It was even difficult to find out their import sources! (Surely, a good SEO strategist would’ve picked up on “sustainable” as a keyword differentiator.)
I gave up and asked my mum for suggestion. She brought up the name 螃蟹之家 and I managed to google its English name to be House of Seafood and made a reservation at Punggol Settlement.
The experience of turning up at the restaurant was no less dramatic than the search process. Chope reservations worked well, thankfully, and we were brought to our table without hassle. But a series of misfortunes ensued:
- I was toying with my Grabz app (an F&B promotions app, not our prestige rival of Uber) and saw that they had a free black pepper or chilli crab we can redeem.
- I spoke to multiple servers about this and even showed them the promo on the app. None of them knew anything about it.
- One of the servers tried to explain that it is Chinese New Year period and they usually don’t have promotions. I pointed out that the app mentioned that only for Chinese New Year day itself and it could probably include the few days before and after. Surely, it doesn’t encompass the entire 15 days of Chinese New Year?
- I finally walked in an spoke to someone who might have been the ‘chief of servers’ and she fiddled with the app, found out that it was a free 300g crab. She explained that it is now Chinese New Year period (again! And yes, I know…) and they do not have such small crabs to give for free. I batted my eyelids and said “sure, happy to have a relatively big smallest crab you have!” Nope, my sweetest smile did not manage to charm her. I was happy to just proceed with the meal anyway, but that she should feedback to her management about this lack of communication internally.
- When I got back to my parents, I reached for a piece of keropok (prawn cracker) after my mum and we concluded that the keropok was not fresh. My mum has a really sharp tongue (in every sense of the word), and a few minutes later, her mouth had developed a sore from the keropok. “Toxic,” she said. Over the years, I’ve learnt that, similar to how silver spoons were used in the Korean Joseon Dynasty to test for arsenic poison, my mum’s oral cavity also ‘tarnishes’ upon contact with seafood that is not fresh.
- I provided feedback to the server about the keropok and went for the pickled papayas instead. I couldn’t swallow it and spat it out. It smelled and tasted bad.
By now, I genuinely afraid of the for that was going into my system and we exited the restaurant as amicably and as swiftly as we could by laying out the facts and the lack of confidence regarding the quality of food. I cringed thinking about the crowds dining at the restaurant without a silver spoon (arsenic test).
So, mum to the rescue again and she suggested going to Ponggol Hock Kee Seafood next door. This time, it was great – little drama. We ordered a chilli crab, 300g of drunken prawns, a few bamboo clams and a vegetable dish. The food was delicious – juicy, succulent crab meat. Prawns were firm and fresh. Bamboo clams were good (as bamboo clams usually are).
But guess what? By the end of the meal and having gone through various menu tabs on their website, I still had no idea if what I ate was sustainably sourced. All I know is that the food was fresh and tasted good.
I am no food-blogger (you can tell from the photos) and taste is not the point. So I was really glad when a friend chanced upon my post and introduced me to Ah Hua Kelong. Again, no food blogger, but I went to the Bedok Simpang stall and had a great experience – both epicuriously and educationally.
So… stay tuned! =P