Revitalising this dish are chefs Sin Leong and Hooi Kok Wai, who run stalwart Cantonese restaurant Red Star in Chin Swee Road. The 45-year-old restaurant, which is famous for its nostalgic dim sum trolleys, is opened by four chefs, who were dubbed the “Four Heavenly Kings of Singapore”.
Besides Sin and Hooi, the quartet also included two late chefs, Tham Yui Kai and Lau Yoke Pui. Together, they were known as the brains behind the yusheng that is served in most Chinese restaurants these days.
Sin (pictured right), 90, and Leong (pictured left), 79, are two of the five well-known local chefs who are fronting the Eat Your History campaign. Other food personalities include chef Haikal Johari, executive chef of one-MICHELIN-starred Alma by Juan Amador and chef Violet Oon, co-founder and co-owner of Violet Oon Singapore, which has MICHELIN Plate outlet in Bukit Timah.
It is part of this year’s Singapore Bicentennial commemoration, a year-long series of events which mark 200 years since colonial founder Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in Singapore.
As part of event line-up, Sin and Leong are sharing the recipe for the time-honoured Cantonese dish and have adapted the recipe for home cooking to encourage more Singaporeans to try their hand at making this dish.
The elderly chefs first learnt to cook Crab Roll With Chicken Liver And Salted Egg at the now-defunct Cathay Restaurant, where they worked for over a decade under the stewardship of master chef Luo Chen. Both chefs hail Luo, who was from Hong Kong, as their mentor who kick-started their culinary journey and career.
In this recipe, the creamy chicken liver and crumbly salted egg in the roll add a contrast in flavours and textures. The ingredients are humble as chefs of yesteryear did not have as much access to top ingredients as they do now.
However, this dish is now seldom served in restaurants and even at homes, as it is time-consuming to prepare and fresh crab meat can be expensive. These days, the dish is served at Red Star Restaurant only upon reservation. The chefs reveal that one of the biggest challenges of cooking this dish is ensuring that the salted egg yolk, which is stuffed right at the centre of the crab roll, is cooked through. The roll needs to be fried at just the right temperature and duration to yield a crispy exterior, and soft and creamy inside.
As told to Kenneth Goh
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100g fresh prawns, minced into paste
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp white pepper powder
1/4 tsp sesame oil
100g canned crab meat
30g cooked chicken liver, diced finely
1 salted duck egg yolk
1 sheet bean curd skin
1 egg yolk, beaten
Corn starch, as needed
Vegetable oil, as needed
Sweet sauce, as needed
Coriander for garnish
1. Season prawn paste with salt, sugar, white pepper powder and sesame oil.
2. Mix seasoned prawn paste with crab meat and cooked chicken liver.
3. Form the mixture into a ball and carefully embed the salted duck egg yolk in the centre of the ball.
4. Wrap the ball in bean curd skin, and smoothen it out.
5. Brush the beaten egg yolk on the bean curd skin and generously coat with cornstarch.
6. Deep fry the ball in vegetable oil at 160˚C until golden brown.
7. Remove, drain and carefully cut into six wedges.
8. To serve, drizzle with sweet sauce and garnish with coriander.
Note: This recipe makes one 10cm roll.
All photos are courtesy of Singapore Bicentennial Office.