Let’s talk about Chilli Crabs, one of Singapore’s most iconic National dish.
But you cannot talk about Chilli Crabs without a mention of Roland Restaurant, known to be the creator of the iconic Chilli Crabs and mecca for crab devotees.
Of course, some other restaurants also do lay claim on that honours, but probably none has “The Year 1956 – Founder Of Chilli Crab” printed on the menu.
The seafood restaurant was founded by a couple, Mr Lim Choon Ngee and Mdm Cher Yam Tian, and named after their son.
It began in 1956 as a small restaurant along the Kallang River, cooking seafood over an open charcoal fire, and had only a couple of few kerosene lamps, wooden tables, and stools. As business grew, they moved to Bedok Beach along Upper East Road (the restaurant then was named Palm Beach Seafood Restaurant.)
Today, Roland Lim, his wife and younger brother operate their latest restaurant at the Marine Parade Central.
This is massive 1100-capacity seafood restaurant offering three cuisine types: Seafood, Cantonese, and Dim Sum.
If you haven’t been there before and find yourself lost, either follow the crowd (usually families) or head over to the 6th level of a multi-storey carpark at Block 89 Marine Parade.
The interior is quite old-school (looked like the wedding dinner places I been to in the 90s), and I won’t be surprised that many of the younger Singaporeans are aware of this place.
Roland Restaurant is best known for its version of Chili Crab, which remains a bestseller up to this day.
The Michelin Guide Singapore has also listed it with a “Michelin Plate”. (On a side note, Olympic champion Joseph Schooling is also said to be a fan of their crabs).
The recipe was created by Mdm Cher herself, and the original version had neither no eggs nor sambal, and served accompanied by mantou for dipping into the sauce.
Compared to most Singaporean seafood restaurants, their chili sauce was more red than orange, and its savoury taste mildly spicy and slightly sweet.
I really enjoyed their sauce, which had a luscious almost gooey texture and mildly-spice kick.
To be honest, I thought some of the other versions I tried had too strong ketchup sweetness which I didn’t really fancy.
If I needed to nit-pick on something, I thought the crab meat could be juicier and chunkier.
Other must-try dishes include Classic Black Sauce Prawns ($24), Sambal Mussels ($12), Fried Baby Squids ($12), Teochew Style Steamed Fish, and Pomfret done in two ways (seasonal price).
The Fried Baby Squids ($12) which was coated with sweet sauce and addictively crispy, deserves a special mention.
Don’t forget their Cockles Dip with Home-made Mum’s Chili Sauce, with recipe by Mdm Cher.
For the other dishes ordered, there were a couple of hits and misses (but more hits), which overall could be better if they were hotter with more wok-hei.
Through the years, Roland’s reputation spread purely by word of mouth, and continue to earn praises for its quality dishes and generous servings. Their Chilli Crabs is worth coming for.
Blk 89 #06-750 Marine Parade Central, Singapore 440089
Tel: +65 6440 8205
Opening Hours: Lunch 11:30am – 2:30pm (Mon – Sat), 11am – 2:30pm (Sun, PH)
Dinner 6pm – 10:30pm (Mon – Sun)