How to end an already perfect day of tanning on the beach, racing starfish found in the water, jumping off of cliffs and then showering under a waterfall? By grabbing a delicious bite of seafood at Chuen Kee, located on Sai Kung’s “seafood street” near the pier.
The storefront of the place is dominated by seemingly endless tanks of fresh seafood, everywhere from prawns to razor clams to lobsters to blue crabs to cuttlefish to squid to sea urchin to sea cucumber to geoduck to GIANT marine fish. Every arthropod and mollusk you can imagine, beautifully fresh and healthy, vibrantly lashing about with their last bit of energy. You pay per pound (plus a per-head cooking fee), and select the cooking method yourself. You can even point out which specific animal you want to eat, and they will net it, throw it in a pan and serve it to you in minutes. This is what I think heaven probably looks (and smells!) like.
The choice of what to get here was one of the most difficult ones I’ve made in months. The menu was around 20 pages long, listed according to animal and then prep method. I chose something that immediately caught my eye because I have never had it before and because the live version was looking good, energetic and muscular. Mantis shrimp. Also known as “urinating shrimp” in Chinese, as these little guys number-one while being cooked. But that’s okay, they’re still delicious. These photos are not the best quality as they were taken with an iPhone at night, so I’m gonna paste a picture here of what this bad boy looks like live:
Tell me that’s not a kick-ass looking creature! This particular one was especially heavenly. The huge shrimp was deep-fried and topped with a thick blanket of super-crispy deep fried garlic (which is becoming my new favorite alternative to breadcrumbs…I love garlic…), chilis, and salt which I did not hesitate to lick off my fingers after eating the animal. The smokey, salty, wonderful blend of garlic and chilis seeped in through the relatively soft shell of the prawn and inundated the flesh with flavor. The shell itself was thin enough to bite through, the legs crunchy enough to eat whole. The soft, white, sweet flesh inside was plump and juicy and slipped out of its shell very easily. The crazy looking head was the perfect “prize bite,” crispy like a chip with a dash of marine-tasting moisture from the brains on the inside. I also appreciated the fact the simple yet thoughtful plating – the shrimp was sitting on a mound of slices cabbage, which picked up the oil from the fried garlic and was the perfect little side salad. There was also a Chuen Kee signature sliced carrot flower on the side which was the perfect fresh finish to a dangerously cholesterol-y snack.
My friends got calamari. I’m glad I went with the pissin’ shrimp. Only later, after researching Chuen Kee a bit, did I find out that it is one of Anthony’s favorites as well. To find out why mantis shrimp are so badass, check out the video below.