If Palm Beach is known for anything its as an enclave for the rich and powerful, a place where the Rush Limbaughs of the world can duck into their mansions like shells on a crab's back. But halfway across the world, Palm Beach is known as the birthplace of one of Singapore's most unique dishes, chilli crab.
I've never eaten a chilli crab, but based on the reports from Singapore-based blog ieatishootipost.sg, it's a dish I'm dying to try. It's made from hard-back mud crabs that are stewed in a spicy tomato sauce that sometimes has sambal, egg, and crab roe as well. It looks exceptionally delicious, if a little difficult to eat. (It's also given me the idea to ask a Singaporan how to eat Bamboo Fire Cafe's curry crab and stay clean.)
The Singapore Palm Beach is actually a restaurant that started as a shack on the Kallang River in 1956 by Cher Yam Tian and her husband Lim Choon Ngee. The couple named the place "Palm Beach Seafood" for the for the coconut palms that lined the beach nearby.
The dish was invented by Lim's wife Cher, who wanted to create a tasty alternative to steaming the mud crabs her husband would catch. By 1963, the place had expanded and moved, and chilli crab fever was spreading across Singapore. Today, chilli crab is known as Singapore's national dish.
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In the 1980s, the couple sold Palm Beach Seafood and the restaurant was relocated again to Fullerton. It still operates today, serving chilli crab in addition to Madam Cher's other well-known innovations like crispy baby squid fried and coated in honey and tau you prawns, shrimp that contain roe inside and
are basted with a soy-based sauce. Another Singapore blog, Shirley's Luxory Haven, took a peek at the new Palm Beach just this week and found there was plenty to love.
Lim and Cher moved to New Zealand after Palm Beach was sold, but their son carried on the tradition, renaming the original spot Roland Restaurant and operating it himself. Though it's greatly expanded over the years, it still serves chilli crab as well.
If you're keeping track, that means there are two Palm Beaches in Singapore and only one here in Florida. And since our Palm Beach doesn't house any crabs that won't slap you with a lawsuit for draping them in chilli sauce, I'd say both of Singapore's bizarro Palm Beaches win out.