The Best Steamboat

We were very well taken care of in Macau and food itinerary was not a problem at all, with all the food recommendations coming from a trustworthy source. It was the first time that zero research was done on my side, and I was happy to just eat without worrying about the quality of our meals.

After checking into the beautiful hotel suite in the late afternoon, we took a quick shower, asked the concierge to book a table for us at Soi Lou Weng for dinner before heading out to the main island. The car ride across the bridge that links the main island of Macau to where we were staying at Taipa, was a sight to behold. It was twilight and the city looked beautiful from afar (can’t attest to this when it’s up-close….casino cities always come across as tacky to me when I look hard enough).

Pardon the quality of this photo, I took it in the moving car…

But nothing, not even the enchanting twilight, could have prepared me for the simple but beautiful meal ahead of us. We were driven through hidden nooks and crannies of the city in the island of Macau, weaving through small alleys between buildings with peeling paint and broken shutters. Our driver rattled on in Cantonese as M replied him haltingly. The only dialect I’m well-versed in is Hokkien, so I could do nothing but stare out the car window and clutch my growling tummy. It was fine by me, really, because I was thinking really hard about the meal. Soi Lou Weng is touted by our personal guide in the hotel to be incredible for crab and clam steamboat. She said it was excellent, and I wondered just how ‘excellent’ a steamboat could be.

Soon enough, we arrived at a darkly lit road lined with rows and rows of shophouses that were *gasp* closed! We got a little worried and quickly checked with our driver that we were at the right place. He chuckled at our panicked faces and told us to look behind us. And there it was, a standalone, two-storey small-ish building fronted by a badly designed billboard with the chef’s gleaming face on it, and neon signs. The first floor was rather empty, but it held only a few small tables. We were told to go up to the second floor. Some creaky steps later, we found ourselves huddled in a corner in a very backward and stuffy restaurant packed full of people with their red faces bent over steaming bowls of soup. Every single table had a full-fledged steamboat in the middle, and everyone was doing some really serious slurping. It looked like steamboat was a favourite here, in spite of the prolific menu.

The menu was in Chinese and we spent a good amount of time poring over the traditional Chinese characters. We gave up after a while when one of the waitresses came over to ask what we wanted to have, and we left it to her to recommend their famed dishes. Before we could even finish our sentences, she jabbed her pen at some mumbo-jumbo (黄金沙大虾2只) that is loosely translated to ‘Yellow Golden Sand Big Prawns 2 Pieces). And I thought, this I know, because hello??? If there’s a salted egg yolk queen, that’s me and I know that these are jumbo-sized prawns that are deep fried and coated in a salted egg yolk batter. I nodded very eagerly at that suggestion despite the hefty price tag of S$30 for two prawns, thinking ‘they had better be good’. The waitress, who seemed to have taken a strong liking to M (she had her butt in my face whilst talking to M, and kept asking M about his height, what he does, hehehehe someone is an aunty killer….), went on to recommend what I now know as The Greatest Steamboat of All Times – the crab and clam steamboat (花甲蟹煲). According to the menu, the soup base costs about S$40 on its own, and I reckoned the crabs and clams were going to burn a hole in our pockets. We decided to go for it anyway, and ordered an assortment of vegetables to go with the steamboat.

I started to worry about the cost of the meal because we had expected Macau to have delicious food offerings at dirt-cheap prices, I even did a mental calculation to see if I brought enough cash. But all these concerns flew out the window when THIS arrived.

Just. Look. At. The. Prawns. Golden, achingly beautiful, and so very precious with all that savoury, buttery salted egg yolk slathered on them. I quivered in excitement. You should have seen the look on M’s face when he took the first bite. His eyes popped out, and he stared incredulously at the prawn for about two seconds, and then stared at me unblinkingly for another three seconds, before declaring very solemnly so that ‘you have to try this’. Of course I did, the wife must do what the husband says, no? The prawns were huuuuuge and very fleshy, succulent and sweet on the inside, delightfully crispy and flavoursome on the outside. I ate everything and left nary a trace, yes even the head. I practically licked the plate clean of all the salted egg yolk goodness. It was a glorious start to one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

When the steamboat was served, I was stumped, in a good way of course. The smell was incredible. The mouthwatering warm breeze of fresh seafood and fresh scents of celery and parsley wafted over from under the steamboat lid to where I was sitting. I couldn’t wait to tuck in, and when I opened the lid, I was in shock at the amount of stuff in the soup. They have given us a very, very generous portion of everything and the steamboat looked like it was replenishing itself with more stuff when we hauled more clams and crab out of it. But I was very happy with the quantity and the quality.

It was the perfect way to start a holiday, with the sweet, succulent and juicy lumps of the crab and clams whose flesh burst into happy explosions of sea flavours with every bite. The dinner was beautiful, expensive at S$80 per person, yes, but in my opinion, it was absolutely worth every penny of it. Hell, I don’t even drink soup, I think most soups constitute a waste of space, space that could be better filled with meats, meats and more meats, but this is one S$40 soup that I’m willing to get drunk on and some very luscious $S15 prawns that I would take over lobsters any day. I would love to return to Macau one day, and rest assured that this will be my first stop. Anyone wants to come along with me, you know, so I can indulge in more variety at Soi Lou Weng?

Check out my other food and travel stories in Macau!

Soi Lou Weng (台山水佬荣美食之家)is located at (ok, I’m sorry that this will have to be written in Chinese because I don’t know the address in English or Portuguese!!):

澳门台山巴波沙大马路97号及99号地下AU铺

 

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