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Every Meal Is a Feast at Hai Cang Seafood

Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant gives diners the royal treatment.

Fish is prepared nearly a dozen different ways here, but the best is the $8 Hunan style crispy fish, which includes a whole fried tilapia — mouth agape, eyes staring up at you — smothered in a thick, spicy sauce dotted with bright red and green chiles. When lightly fried, the skin becomes crunchy, a nice textural contrast to the soft meat and the crisp pepper slices that pop when chewed, releasing petite amounts of heat into your mouth. The steamed tilapia is wonderful, too, but I prefer the spicy crunch of the fried fish to the soft steamed version, which on one visit came with a mild, watery soy sauce, albeit one packed with delicate seafood flavor.

Dungeness crab is also dressed up with a variety of sauces and presentations. On my way out of Hai Cang one evening, I observed a couple tearing into a large bowl that was wrapped in banana leaves, a whole steamed crab perched gracefully on top. I returned the next day knowing exactly what I wanted. It's a massive helping of simple seafood fried rice dotted with tiny shrimp and scrambled eggs, topped with a whole steamed crab (legs already detached for easier consumption), which itself was topped with a sprinkling of bright orange crab roe. For a complicated presentation, the dish itself is fairly simple. Steamed crab, unfussy fried rice, roe. That's it. But when everything is prepared with the utmost care, a dish needn't be intricate or abstruse.

The crab with fried rice wasn't even my favorite version of the spindly crustacean, however, because the fried crab with a butter black pepper sauce approached perfection. So, too, its cousins, two fried lobsters, also dressed in the butter black pepper sauce.

One minute a lobster is crawling around a flashy tank, the next it's buttered, breaded, fried and served up steaming hot with a side of rice.
Troy Fields
One minute a lobster is crawling around a flashy tank, the next it's buttered, breaded, fried and served up steaming hot with a side of rice.

Location Info

Map

Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant

11768 Bellaire Blvd.
Houston, TX 77072

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: Outer Loop - SW

Details

Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Eggplant with spicy sauce: $4.95
Sautéed salad with Malaysian: sauce $8.95
Walnut shrimp: $5.95
Stir-fried flat noodle with beef: $6.95
Crab over fried rice: $28.95
Hunan-style crispy fish: $7.95
Lobster with butter and black pepper: $18.99 for two
Crab with black bean sauce: $26.95
Steamed tilapia with ginger and scallions: $16.99
Sizzling beef: $9.95



See Also:

Slideshow: A Closer Look at Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant
Blog: Reconsider the Lobster at Hai Cang Seafood


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Traditionally, lobster and crab are served with melted butter, so it makes sense to simply dunk the whole in the butter rather than encouraging dainty dipping. And while we're at it, why not fry the creatures? Because, really, few things are better before they're fried than after.

The butter, the small balls of cracked pepper, the nearly translucent fried crust — all these elements enhance the natural sweetness of the crustaceans, elevating them to their best possible forms far removed from superfluous spices, bread crumbs or tartar sauces.

Dining on such succulent creatures, I felt like a king, slurping the juicy meat out of a claw here, taking a moment to munch on spicy stewed eggplant there, ordering a pot of tea to aid digestion.

'I think we should order something else," my friend said as I sat staring at the decimated seafood platters before us, clutching my full belly. I started to laugh at what was clearly a joke, then stopped as she beckoned the waiter and placed an order for yet another whole crab.

The waiter, however, didn't seem shocked at all, and I realized why when I glanced around and noticed diners at other tables pushing partially filled plates aside to make room for round two of their feasts. Sure enough, ten minutes later, we performed the same routine, shifting plates and glasses to make room for one more glistening, steaming crab, its sweet juices still bubbling out from cracks in its shell.

I have always believed that happy animals taste better, and as I left Hai Cang, after having devoured four different types of ocean creatures, the lobsters and crabs resting in their temporary homes seemed to confirm my thesis. I swear they were smiling at me.

Get a look inside Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant with our photo gallery.

kaitlin.steinberg@houstonpress.com

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6 comments
del.martinis
del.martinis topcommenter

We used a Groupon last week and had an OK meal, but nothing like the dishes you're describing.  Might have to try it out again and hit the seafood more!

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

Nice one; mouth is salivating at the thought..

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

@del.martinis Seafood is the way to go. The $18.99 for two lobster with butter black pepper and the live tilapia (steamed) for $16.99 is always a home run. The $8 fried fish is also awesome -- for $8! They have expensive stuff too -- I once paid $86 for a whole freshwater fish --- and they have live prawns and sometimes live king crab (in the range of $400-$500 for gourmet splurges -- but the lower priced seafood is solid.

del.martinis
del.martinis topcommenter

@Mai Pham @del.martinis Mai, we weren't going to return until we saw this review.  I love, love love lobster so when we do go back, that's the dish we'll try. Maybe we'll see you there...

del.martinis
del.martinis topcommenter

@Mai Pham @del.martinis Absolutely and hope to see you!  I really want that lobster now!  Also next on my list, speaking of lobster, is the lobster roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

@del.martinis I've been eating there at least every other week for a few months now. Usually I get some type of steamed fish - so healthy and fresh -- but almost every table orders the lobster because it's a steal of a deal. If you do see me and my fish, do come by and say hi! 

 
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