Singapore Chilli Crab


Chilli crab is a popular seafood dish  in Singapore, and consists of mud crabs deep-fried in a sweet, savoury and spicy gravy. It has been referred to in various food publications as Singapore’s national seafood dish or even Singapore’s unofficial national dish.

This dish has an amazing flavor with just enough chilli punch to wake up your taste buds.

It’s messy, mouth watering and absolutely delicious.  Best of all, you have to use your hands to eat it, whether it is in the comfort of your home or at a plush restaurant.  Recently I had a request from abroad for a cooking class on Chilli Crab and so I went to the market to place my order.  I have used blue crabs in this recipe and the dish turned out to be absolutely stunning to look at and a feast for our senses.  Instead of frying the crabs, I just boiled them.  You can also bake them.  It’s up to you to produce a gorgeous dish.

The Recipe:

2 kg crabs, cleaned and cut into half, crack the claws with a mallet and keep aside to drain; keep the outer shells too.  Add 1/4 cup water, boil and keep aside.  Reserve the stock for the sauce.

1 small onion, minced; 4-8 chilies, minced; 7 large cloves garlic, minced; 3 tbsp oil;  2 cups tomato puree; 4 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce; 3 1/2 tbsp vinegar; 1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste; 1/2 cup sugar; Salt  to taste.

3/4 cup water/stock; 1 1/2 tbsp corn flour; 2 large eggs, beaten; 1 bunch coriander leaves for garnish.

Add the oil to a large wok over medium-high flame.  Add the chopped onions, garlic and chilies and stir fry for about 2 minutes.

Stir in the tomato puree, soy sauce, vinegar, tomato paste, sugar and salt. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for 3 minutes.

Whisk the cornstarch with the 1/2 cup water and stir into the sauce to lightly thicken the sauce.  Adjust seasoning to taste.

Add the beaten egg to the ingredients in the wok and stir into the sauce. Pour over crab and garnish with coriander leaves. Serve with sliced, fried mantou buns to mop up any extra sauce. You can also serve them with toasted, sliced baguette which is a healthier option and fried rice or white rice.

Despite its name, chilli crab is usually only mildly spicy. Vary the amount of chilies to your taste.

If you don’t have it: Substitute 1 tablespoon tomato paste with 2 to 3 tbsp tomato puree or tomato sauce (reduce liquid in recipe by 2 to 3 tbsp); or boil tomato puree or sauce until reduced to 1 tbsp.

 Below is a recipe for the sauce that can be mixed together and stored in an air tight jar in the refrigerator.  This is what I do when I am feeling lazy.  It does not compromise on the taste though.

Easy Sweet & Sour Chilli Sauce

120 ml water; 30 ml white vinegar; 90 ml tomato sauce; 30 ml tomato chili sauce; 30 ml Worcestershire sauce; 90 gms brown sugar; 30 ml light soy sauce; 10 ml sesame oil; 30 ml corn flour.

Mix together in a large bowl and keep ready to add to the crabs when cooked. Thicken, add beaten egg and serve hot garnished with coriander leaves.

N.B. Boil the sauce ingredients till thick and store in the fridge till required.

Learn how to cook a traditional Indian meal using recipes that have been inherited from my great-grandmother.


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