CrabAbout a week ago, I was meeting Debbie and a friend (Martin) after an event at Alliance Francaise and we decided to try a place Martin recommended – Nanking Restaurant in Sigma Mall on Cunningham Road. He’s the one who recommended Dahlia to us, so I was hopeful this would be reasonable too.

Nanking is apparently the latest outpost of a restaurant with branches in Delhi and Mumbai. It bills itself as Chinese, not multi-cuisine, and it lives up to the billing. We started with an appetizer that sounded like it would be something like a spring roll, crispy on the outside and a mixed minced meat filling. We also had been craving pork and so asked to try their spareribs. At this point the host asked “do you like crab?” “Yes we love crab.” He disappeared only to return with a GIGANTIC live crab vigorously waving its claws. (The crab in the photo is smaller, I didn’t manage to take a picture of the one we ate.)

“How about this?” “Um, sure!” “Would you like it steamed?” “Can you make it sauteed in black bean sauce?” “Of course.” “We’d like that then.”

More after the cut.

CrabThey took away the giant crab and brought us the starters. The crispy roll was more like a small pork sausage wrapped in a rice noodle and deep fried. Tasty, but not exactly what I’d expected or what I had in mind. The spare ribs were meltingly tender and served with a dark sauce that combined savory notes of dark soy with just enough sweetness. Normally I prefer spareribs to be finished on a grill or under a broiler to bring out browned flavors, but these were delicious nonetheless. We finished them all.

Then came the crab. I had been worried that it was too big for three when they showed it to us, and when they presented it cooked and sauced I was certain of it. Each of the claws was big enough to be an entire meal for one person, and there was twice again as much meat in the body and legs. Debbie took one claw, Martin took the other, and I took a piece of the body.

The flavor of the crab was incredible. Evidently this crab comes from somewhere north of us. Maybe in the Bay of Bengal or maybe the Arabian Sea off the coast near Mumbai? In any case the flesh was delicately tender and very sweet. The black bean sauce I’d asked for was maybe a little too strong for this, but how was I to know such a big beast would have such a subtle flavor? Next time I think just steamed with ginger and scallions would be better. We had a nice long discussion with the host about chinese cuisine and crabs in particular, contrasting this crab to the Dungeness I’m more familiar with.

After we could no longer move, Martin took home the remaining crab and reported that it was almost too much the next day as well. It seemed to me we’d found a winner, but I wanted to be sure, so we decided to try it again last night.

This time the host recognized us, and as we were seated they brought us chopsticks and rice bowls, remembering from last time that we preferred them. In addition they poured tea which was a nice touch, though I’m pretty sure it was a domestic black tea rather than a chinese style tea – still it was a pleasant surprise.

They brought us the menus, but even before we could really look at them he asked us a little hesitantly “Do you like brewed soup?” “Sure.” “We have a brewed pork soup tonight, special.” “That sounds good.” “You like pickle? We have some home style radish pickle.” “Excellent. Yes please.” “Do you like stewed pork?” “Yes of course.” “Would you like to try our pork mai chow?” “Definitely.” “How about fish, we have a very nice fish tonight, bombay duck.” “Um, I’m worried that might be too much food.” “You could take some home.” “Well…” “It’s a special fish, we don’t always have it.” “Oh, alright.”

Now I’m very familiar with this little dance, and as long as I know the restaurant or know the chef or host, this is my normal preferred method of eating. Walk in, sit down, and say “please serve us whatever is good tonight.” Normally the results are good and sometimes they’re amazing, but I didn’t really know this place or the host – still for some reason I trusted him.

CrabThe soup arrived, anonymous lumps of meat surrounded by limp stringy looking vegetables in a grayish broth that smelled strongly of sulfur, reminding me a little of old sneakers. Fortunately I’d had experience with some more traditional chinese soups and plunged on in spite of the appearance and smell. The soup was delicious. It was made with pork neck bones that had been simmered over low heat for over seven hours. The pungent aroma was a combination of preserved vegetables and chinese mustard greens, which added just the right bitter notes to balance the salty and savory flavors of the pork. The broth was rich and supple and very satisfying. This is not a subtle soup, not a delicate soup, this is a hearty traditional soup for people who appreciate chinese cuisine. This is definitely not a soup for the timid, picky, or fastidious diner.

With the soup came the home style radish pickle. Very simple, just giant white radish picked in rice vinegar and sugar, but crunchy and flavorful and a good accompaniment to the soft dishes we’d ordered. They also brought a condiment of soy sauce, chopped fresh red chilies, and maybe a tiny bit of black vinegar that I used to flavor the soup and season the pickles – the sauce was fiery hot and I used it with discretion. They weren’t going to coddle us tonight!

CrabNext was the pork stew with mai-chow. This is a Hakka-style chinese recipe consisting of pieces of pork belly (still including the skin) that is stewed with dried vegetables in a flavorful broth. It’s a kind of hot pot. The pork is cooked to the point where the skin is soft and the gelatine has dissolved into the broth, the vegetables look like dried leeks or green onions. The entire dish is aromatic smelling of star anise and other brown spices. After other experiences with dry overcooked pork, this was nirvana.

Finally the “bombay duck.” This is a small silver fish that had the head removed then split, flattened, breaded and quickly fried. The crust was probably panko crumbs, and the fish had been cooked perfectly. The outside was lightly browned and very crispy while the fish itself was moist and delicate, almost buttery in texture. The few bones were tiny and soft, almost unnoticeable. The fish came with a sweet catsup based sauce including diced onions that was mercifully served on the side.

CrabWe had steamed rice which unfortunately was the ubiquitous long grain, but served in a clay pot which seemed a little incongruous. That was the only thing I can find to complain about. Finally they brought us a complimentary dessert of vanilla ice cream and fried banana with a hard caramelized shell and sesame. Utterly delicious. I don’t remember how much the crab was (but it wasn’t cheap) however the second meal came to under Rs 800 for the two of us. I think we just found our new favorite chinese restaurant in Bangalore.

11 Comments so far

  1. Bengalooru India (unregistered) on May 19th, 2007 @ 4:50 pm

    Well,You can see more areas in bangalore in this site

  2. silkboard (unregistered) on May 19th, 2007 @ 10:03 pm

    eeeeks, that photo Charles ! :)

  3. Briju Prasad (unregistered) on May 19th, 2007 @ 10:13 pm

    The right up is very systematic,it looked like one of those restaurant reviews on major News paper/Magazines.

    I am a Veggie myself but my mouth was almost watering as I read through the post.
    I am sure I will not taste any of them, but looks like a great place for people who like sea food Chinese.

  4. Mytri (unregistered) on May 20th, 2007 @ 1:12 am

    Silkboard you beat me to it!!
    Please can I humbly request you to not put those pictures up on the top page? It is just that I get to read this blog with my first coffee. Thanks Charles et al.

  5. Briju Prasad (unregistered) on May 20th, 2007 @ 9:03 pm

    Sorry about the typo,It should have read “write up” as opposed to “Right up”.Ta

  6. Suyog (unregistered) on May 20th, 2007 @ 11:27 pm

    Very well written post however why I do feel that Bangalore Metblogs in recent times is becoming more of Bangalore Cookblogs. Guys, can we have more of the city please and less of the food ?

  7. blr bytes (unregistered) on May 21st, 2007 @ 11:17 am

    Food. More glorious food.

    What else is there to do in Bangalore but eat, drink (but only till 11:30 PM) and be jaaally…

    Thank you Charles. I look forward to more Bangalore culinary adventures…

  8. Charles Haynes (unregistered) on May 21st, 2007 @ 11:41 am

    Not to worry, I will post things other than food, but food is a huge part of my life, so it will naturally also be a huge fraction of my postings!

  9. Rajesh (unregistered) on May 21st, 2007 @ 5:11 pm

    Nice n Yummy post!!

    btw, It’s starge to find ‘Bombay duck’ i.e. Bombil here… thanks for the lead!!

  10. darthc0der (unregistered) on May 21st, 2007 @ 7:40 pm

    I had a similar experience with The House of Nanking in San Francisco. We were 7 of us – high school re-union of sorts. The head chef realized we were new to the place and simply took our menu and said he’ll select the goodies of the day. And then followed a never before journey in to really great chinese cusine with history behind each dish. Simply brilliant!

    I wonder if these guys are related?

  11. Anton (unregistered) on May 22nd, 2007 @ 11:07 pm

    Nanking is run by Baba Ling from Bombay (and recently, Dehli). The connection with the House of Nanking stateside would be tenuous at best, and probably restricted to the fact that they are both Cantonese and specialise in Southern Chinese cuisine.(See my comments about Nanking in the comments section of Charles’ Blog, edgeplay..)

    How come nobody told you about Harima, the Japanese restaurant run by a Japanese family, (see the latest Femina magazine for a review). Pricey, but worth the money… the quality of the food is out of this world! Yeah, go ahead: push ALL my buttons. Write more food reviews!!!

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