Chef's Recipes

Wok-fried mud crab with chilli-tamarind caramel

Australian Gourmet Traveller recipe for wok-fried mud crab with chilli-tamarind caramel by Nick Holloway from Nu Nu.

By Nick Holloway
  • 30 mins preparation
  • 30 mins cooking
  • Serves 2
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Wok-fried mud crab with chilli-tamarind caramel
“I can’t stop thinking about the mouth-watering mud crab I tried at Nu Nu in Palm Cove while on holidays in Queensland. Would you please ask chef Nick Holloway to share the recipe for his fantastic chilli-tamarind caramel?”
Deanne Lewis, Malabar, NSW
To request a recipe, write to Fare Exchange, , GPO Box 4088, Sydney, NSW 2001, or email us. All requests should include the restaurant’s name and address or business card, as well as your name and address.
At Nu Nu, this dish is served with a hot and sour soup.


  • 1 live mud crab (about 900gm)
  • 300 ml fish stock
  • 1 bunch gai lan, coarsely chopped
  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 20 garlic chives (about ½ bunch)
  • Juice of 2 limes, or to taste
  • To taste: fish sauce
  • 25 gm (½ cup) fried shallots
  • 1 bunch sawtooth coriander, torn (see note)
  • To serve: coriander leaves and steamed jasmine rice
Chilli-tamarind caramel
  • 5 long red chillies, halved lengthways, seeds removed
  • 4 golden shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 4 coriander roots, scrubbed
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
  • 190 gm light palm sugar, crushed
  • To taste: fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp tamarind pulp, or to taste


  • 1
    Place crab in freezer for 1 hour to render insensible, then split crab down the centre to kill humanely. Remove top shell, remove gills and clean. Quarter crab and crack large claws, leaving attached. Refrigerate until required.
  • 2
    For chilli-tamarind caramel, pound chilli, shallot, coriander root and garlic in a mortar and pestle to a fine paste. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat until hot. Add paste, stir-fry until fragrant (3-5 minutes). Add palm sugar, cook until golden caramel (5-7 minutes). Add 50ml water, stir and cook until slightly thickened (2-3 minutes). Cool slightly, season to taste with fish sauce and tamarind and set aside. Chilli-tamarind caramel will keep refrigerated for one month.
  • 3
    Bring stock to the boil in a large wok over high heat, add crab, reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer until crab is just cooked (8-10 minutes). Add gai lan, spring onion, garlic chives, half the chilli-tamarind caramel and 50ml water, stir until vegetables soften (1-2 minutes). Add extra chilli-tamarind carmel to taste, if desired, and season to taste with lime juice and fish sauce. Scatter with fried shallots, sawtooth coriander and coriander and serve hot with jasmine rice.


Sawtooth coriander has a long serrated leaf and is available from Thai and Asian grocers. If unavailable, substitute regular coriander.
This recipe is from the September 2009 issue of

  • Author: Nick Holloway