½ tspcornflour10long red chillies, finely chopped1onion, finely chopped80 ml (1/3 cup)vegetable oil2live mud crabs (about 1kg each), killed humanely, scrubbed and quartered35 gm (7cm piece)ginger, finely chopped3garlic cloves, finely chopped1 tbsptomato paste200 mltomato purée2 tbsptomato sauce (ketchup)1egg, lightly beaten2 tbsplight soy sauce, or to taste1 tbspsugar, or to tasteTo serve:coriander, thinly sliced spring onions, and crusty bread, steamed buns or steamed rice
Whisk cornflour and 200ml water in a small bowl to combine and set aside.
Process chilli and onion in a food processor until a paste forms and set aside.
Heat oil in a large wok over medium heat. Add crab and stir-fry until starting to colour (3-4 minutes). Remove crab with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add chilli paste and stir until tender (7-10 minutes). Add ginger and garlic, stir until fragrant (2-3 minutes). Add tomato paste and stir until mixture darkens in colour (1-2 minutes). Add tomato purée and ketchup, bring to the simmer, add cornflour mixture, stir to combine, then add crab and cook, stirring occasionally, until orange and cooked through (10-12 minutes). Drizzle with egg, stir to coat, season to taste with soy sauce, sugar and salt and serve hot topped with coriander and spring onion, with bread or steamed rice.
One of the most satisfying - and surely the most famous - of
all crab dishes, Singapore chilli crab has a relatively short
history. The dish consists of crab in its shell, stir-fried and
heavily coated in a rich, sweet red sauce made with bottled tomato
sauce (ketchup), soy sauce and ginger, among other ingredients,
thickened with egg and cornflour. Mud crab, with its generous
amount of flaky sweet flesh, is traditionally the crustacean of
choice for chilli crab.
Singaporean Cher Yam Tian created the original version of chilli
crab for her husband in 1950, and began selling it shortly
afterwards from a humble street cart. The acclaim her invention
garnered was so great that in 1956 she and her husband opened a
restaurant, Palm Beach Seafood, which is still cooking up this
famous dish today.
Madame Cher's version was sweeter and less rich than the one that
many of us are now familiar with. The later additions of egg and
sambal have been attributed to chef Hooi Kok Wai of Singapore's
Dragon Phoenix Restaurant, which also serves its version of the
recipe to this day.
Singaporeans aren't the only people proud to call chilli crab
their own, however. The Malaysian tourism minister caused a mini
media storm back in 2009 when she suggested that Malaysia's chilli
crab had been "hijacked" by other countries. Indeed, excellent
variations of the dish can be found in many unassuming Malaysian
restaurants in Australia.
Despite the name, there's not a lot of spicy heat in traditional
chilli crab. In our recipe, the long chillies add only a subtle
heat; feel free to add more chilli to taste. If you prefer less
sweetness than is customary, fresh tomatoes would be a fine
Eating chilli crab is a messy business and requires you to leave
decorum at the door. Popular accompaniments include crusty bread
and mantou, Chinese steamed buns, which are great for mopping up
all the wonderful sauce. Of course steamed rice does the trick too.
Arm yourself and your guests with the necessary tools - crab
crackers, crab pick, finger bowl, bib and napkin - and dig
At A Glance
Serves 8 people
At A Glance
Serves 8 people
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