Chefs' Recipes

Tony Tan's crab soup with pickled vegetable and tomato

Sure, it's messy to eat. That just makes it more fun.

By Tony Tan
  • 20 mins preparation
  • 15 mins cooking
  • Serves 6
  • Print
"My family always makes this refreshing Chinese home-style soup when crab is in season" says Tony Tan. "It's similar to a Thai tom yum soup, and speaks volumes on flavour while being quick to prepare. It's a rather rustic soup, and since it is made with whole crabs, it requires some 'grappling' with the shells, so be prepared for some messy but fun eating. If you prefer a less fiddly method, go for frozen spanner crabmeat from Queensland. This recipe uses xian cai (pickled mustard greens; known as hum choy in Cantonese), which are readily available from most Asian grocers."


  • 3 raw blue swimmer crabs, (250gm-300gm each)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 long red chillies, seeds removed (optional), thinly sliced
  • 20 gm ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 litres (8 cups) chicken stock
  • 250 gm pickled mustard greens (see note), rinsed, thickly sliced
  • 1 Chinese or Thai pickled lime (about 50gm; optional, see note), thinly sliced, plus extra to serve
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp caster sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 large tomato, cut into thin wedges
  • Coriander, to serve


  • 1
    Clean crabs by removing top shell, then removing the feathery grey gills. Rinse crabs, then split each into 4 and crack claws with the back of a large knife for easier eating.
  • 2
    Heat oil in a wide saucepan over medium heat. Add chilli, ginger and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add stock, mustard greens and pickled lime, bring to the boil, then add crab and Shaoxing. Skim foam from surface, reduce heat to medium and simmer until crab is bright orange and just cooked through (5-6 minutes). Stir soy sauce and sugar into soup, seasoning to taste, then add tomato and stir to warm through. Serve immediately with coriander and extra pickled lime.


Chinese mustard greens, called jie cai or gai choy, are known as xian cai (Mandarin) or hum choy (Cantonese) once pickled. Pickled mustard greens and Chinese or Thai pickled limes are available from Asian grocers.
Drink suggestion: Amontillado sherry. Drink suggestion by Max Allen.

  • undefined: Tony Tan