Pepper Crab, Garlic Chili Prawns, And A Giant “Crabzilla” Await Seafood Lovers At Sri Lanka’s Ministry Of Crab
Shangri-La at the Fort just opened its newest dining destination, Ministry of Crab (MoC), an award-winning seafood concept from Colombo, Sri Lanka. Ministry of Crab was established in December 2011 by Sri Lanka’s most renowned chef and restaurateur Dharshan Munidasa, together with Sri Lankan cricket legends Kumar Sangkkara and Mahela Jayawardene."
During the MoC Manila opening, from left, former Sri Lankan cricket team captain and MoC co-founder Kumar Sangkkara, Shangri-La at the Fort GM John Rice, and Chef Dharshan Munidasa
The original MoC made a reputation for serving only export quality Sri Lankan lagoon crabs, very popular outside Sri Lanka, but hard to find in the country since the best crabs are all exported. Through the years, this popular crab haven has gained a reputation for its seafood dishes which uses seafood that is never frozen.
Since it opened, MoC has been steadily expanding, opening its first overseas outpost in Shanghai late last year, followed by Manila, and with a branch opening soon in India. It comes as no surprise that Ministry of Crab has been included on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list since 2015, garnering the No. 25 spot in 2018.
What to expect
Ministry of Crab Manila is found in a beautiful bi-level space that exudes a sexy colonial vibe said to be inspired by the Colombo flagship.
Just like in any other Ministry of Crab location, the crabs are the “stars of the show,” with prawns playing a significant supporting role. On the menu, there are at least 10 sizes of crabs and prawns to choose from, ranging from 500 to 600 grams for the smallest crabs and prawns, to gigantic 2-kilo “Crabzilla” crabs and “Prawnzilla” prawns. Guests have a myriad of flavors to choose from, ranging from Sri Lankan signatures to a selection of Filipino favorites.
A crab mural by Dee Jae Pa’Este
To ensure the freshest ingredients, MoC sources export-quality mud crabs, prawns, as well as most of the ingredients from around Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. For the signature Sri Lankan dishes, black peppercorns, chili peppers, and other spices are imported from Sri Lanka for the best results. Desserts feature a marriage of Filipino and Sri Lankan flavors, using ingredients like agar-agar, pistachio, rice, Philippine mango, and kulfi to end the meal on a sweet note.
Specialty cocktails infused with Sri Lankan flavors and ingredients
Complementing the menu is a curated beverage menu that is unique to the Manila branch. Created by Shangri-La at The Fort’s Executive Mixologist, Ulysse Jouanneaud, the cocktails are infused with Sri Lankan flavors like cinnamon and ginger, homemade ginger beer and distillates, and assorted teas. My recommended drink is the Spirit of the Sea cocktail made with Portobello Road No. 171 gin, cucumber and cilantro, bergamot juice, green tomato jam, and saline.
Spirit of the Sea cocktail (photo by Cyrene de la Rosa)
What to order
Here are my early favorites among the signature dishes that I have tried so far:
The Garlic Chili Fresh Water Prawn or Ulang is described as a Ministry of Crab original where Mediterranean and Japanese food philosophies meet prawn. But this wok-fried dish should not be compared to similar Chinese or Filipino versions. Instead, it blends the distinct flavor of Italian olive oil, garlic, Sri Lankan chili flakes, and Japanese soy sauce to come up with this perfectly balanced dish best eaten with white rice or kade bread, cubes of brioche like Sri Lanka street bread.
Garlic Chili Fresh Water Prawn or Ulang (photo by Cyrene de la Rosa)
A must-order for black pepper lovers, Pepper Crab celebrates the black pepper, Sri Lanka’s king of spice for over 4,000 years. The dish features hand-crushed peppercorns (rolled on a traditional miris gala), whole peppercorns, and a pepper stock, fusing ingredients endemic to Sri Lanka. I loved the extra kick and long finish that the Sri Lankan peppercorns have, with a much stronger flavor profile than the local peppercorns we cook with.
Pepper Crab (photo by Cyrene de la Rosa)
The Baked Crab may look like the Filipino crab torta dish, but is nothing like it. Think of it more like a risotto, with more crab than rice, that is then baked in a crab shell. It’s a dish inspired by the classic saying, “main ingredient in baked crab should be crab” and is perfect as a light starter or side dish.
Shangri-La The Fort, 30th Street corner 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City (use ground level entrance on 30th Street, which is the same entrance leading to The Back Room bar), (02) 820-0888, IG @ministryofcrab.manila
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