Chef Nic Tang Brings a Singapore Delicacy to DC

DBGB’s Summer Voyage Series showcases Singapore and a favorite national dish, Chili Crab

Words and photography by Sabrina Medora, Edible DC contributor

My love affair with food began around the age of 10 when I found myself spending all my summers and winters in Singapore exploring hawker stalls and, well, more hawker stalls. A melting pot of Cantonese, Malay, and Indian cuisines, Singapore is truly heaven on earth for food enthusiasts. Nowadays, the minute my plane touches down, I head over to the closest hawker stall for a comforting helping of Hainanese chicken rice. The next morning, it’s off to find salty, slurpy kwae taio for breakfast. Let’s not forget dim sum at tea time. And, at some point, Chili Crab (preferably on a plastic chair, beachside, at East Coast Parkway) is a necessity.

 Singapore Chili Crab in its glory, thanks to Chef Nic Tang and DBGB.

Singapore Chili Crab in its glory, thanks to Chef Nic Tang and DBGB.

Chili Crab is both a Singaporean delicacy and a masterpiece. Served whole, massive Dungeness crabs are bathed and served, still simmering, in a thick chili sauce that will take your breath away. To eat chili crab is, at minimum, an hour’s commitment. No phones. No fancy clothes. Just you, your hands and that crab. Drippings are mopped up with crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside mantou buns, a steamed bread that is deep fried. 

It truly is delicious, making it to #29 on CNN Travel's World's 50 Best Foods. The mere memory of chili sauce running down to my elbows as I enthusiastically suck crab from the depths of shell is enough to send me into bliss. Bliss that Chef Nicholas Tang of DBGB has been able to recreate and share here in D.C.

 Chef Tang hard at work preparing Chili Crab.

Chef Tang hard at work preparing Chili Crab.

In celebration of Singapore’s National Day (August 9), Chef Tang threw a Singapore Chili Crab dinner that left diners speechless—and enthusiastically sucking crab. With a spread that included his grandmother’s deep friend wonton recipe, Chinese chicken satay, chili crab and Chef Tang’s own take on another beloved crab recipe, Black Pepper Crab, it was a feast for true food fiends.

 Chicken satay. 

Chicken satay. 

 Fried wontons, Tang's grandmother's recipe.

Fried wontons, Tang's grandmother's recipe.

“Every recipe is my own. I tried to source as many authentic ingredients that I could. I did have to tone down the spice a little though,” Chef Tang chuckles as diners inquire about the spread.

The unspoken camaraderie that reverberated around the table as people from all backgrounds and walks of life came together to share in the experience was truly wonderful. Some were familiar with chili crab while others were thrilled at the discovery.

 Tang presents a platter of crab.

Tang presents a platter of crab.

While the meal itself may have paid full homage to Chef Tang’s heritage, the dessert spoke to Chef Tang’s future as a chef. A sublime kaya profiterole displayed perfect balance between classic Singaporean flavors and precise French technique.

 A kaya profiterole, perfect ending. 

A kaya profiterole, perfect ending. 

The Summer Voyage series is a perfect chance to “travel by eating,” with a new country each upcoming weekend. The precision and passion that Chef Tang and the entire DBGB team exhibited for this fun summer project are an added bonus.

The next culinary journeys on DGBG’s Summer Voyage list will take you to:

  • Greece—August 24-26
  • Southern Italy—August 31-Sept. 2
  • Northern Italy—Sept. 7-9
 

DGBG is located in City Center DC at 931 H St NW. For more information, go to dbgb.com/dc