Features 2 minutes 10 February 2017

Behind The Bib: Alliance Seafood

The brothers behind Alliance Seafood tells us more on what goes into one of Singapore's iconic dishes.

Behind The Bib Singapore

Alliance Seafood
Where: 500 Clemenceau Ave North, Newton Circus Food Centre #01-27
Tel: 96437234
Opening hours: 12.30pm- 12am (closed on Wednesdays)
Owner: Desmond Ho, Richard Ho

While chilli crab is the undisputed national dish of Singapore, the fragrant black pepper crab is also popular with gourmands. These two dishes are offered at many places all around Singapore, including the iconic Newton Hawker Centre. Opened in the 70s, Newton is where one can find a gamut of Singapore’s local flavours, and is the perfect place to sample Singapore’s hawker food culture. Among the stalls are those specialising in barbecued seafood offered at prices that are a lot more wallet-friendly than dining at restaurants.

Alliance Seafood is an established name in Newton Hawker Centre and has been in operation for the past thirty years. Current stall owners – brothers Desmond and Richard Ho – spent much of their growing-up years at the hawker centre, as their father once sold drinks there. Desmond, the elder son, had worked in the advertising industry after graduation, but later decided to take over his father’s business in partnership with his brother. Seeing the lucrative side to selling seafood, the both of them took the dive.

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Younger brother Richard, who has a passion of cooking, very quickly mastered the techniques of cooking crabs – and his culinary prowess is recognised by Michelin today. On the other hand, Desmond is in charge of managing customers and other aspects of the stall’s operations. The brothers have been complementing each other and forging ahead in business together.

Sweet, tangy, and with a right level of heat, the sauce for the chilli crab dish is what makes it irresistible. And mopping up all the sauce with fried mantou when the crabs are finished is simply the cherry on top of the icing. The secret behind the sauce? Richard claims it’s a simple combination of ketchup and chilli, but as every cook has his own suppliers and proportions of ingredients, every version is different. “I can’t say exactly why our chill crabs are good. Perhaps it is just right for our customer’s palate!”

Richard does however stress that Alliance Seafood is uncompromising when it comes to the selection of condiments, using only dark soy sauce and black pepper from selected manufacturers. When choosing the right kind of crab, only plump, meaty Sri Lankan crabs will do for making chilli crab, and only sea prawns are used in making cereal prawns.

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For a chilli crab dish using a 750-800gm of crab, the selling price is $36. However many customers do not just stop at one dish, and hence a $65 set menu for two persons has been rolled out. The menu includes one whole crab prepared either in chilli or black pepper sauce, cereal prawns, fried rice and fried mantou.

Besides crab and prawns, the stall also sells seafood such as stingray, mussels, a variety of clams, cockles and squid. Stir-fried dishes such as sweet and sour pork, black pepper beef and mixed vegetables are also within their repertoire.

According to Desmond, Newton Hawker Centre has always been a place for seafood, and plenty flock here for barbecued seafood. He recalls that there were only four or five stalls specialising in barbecued seafood when they first opened here – today, there are more than 20 such stalls.

“A lot of stalls sell grilled sambal stingray served on banana leaf, a dish that purportedly originated from Newton.”

He professes that competition is now stiff, and thus places a lot of focus on customer service. Thoughtful touches such as offering complimentary plastic gloves, wet wipes, and even after-meal mints all add to the dining experience here.

Recommended reading: View all Behind The Bib Stories here.


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