All Posts,  Guest Articles,  Guest Contributions

Spice Up Your Life with This Chilli Crab Recipe

When you’re at a tze char stall, there’s nothing quite like seeing a glorious plate of chilli crab coming in your direction. Straight off the wok, you see the steam coming off its plate. The bright red, eggy sauce that’s wobbling away – tempting anyone who looks to lean in for a bite. And accompanying it on its journey, is a plate of golden, deep-fried mantous that you know – will never be enough to satisfy the cravings of your entire table. Placed down in the middle, both crab and mantous are welcomed with gasps and wows, which is followed by the sounds of flash and camera shutters. Well, who can blame them when something this crabtivating has made its entrance?

Where did chilli crabs come from?

For the uninitiated, chilli crab was first created in the 1950s by Cher Yam Tiam, a street food hawker. Call it an accidental discovery if you will, for it was when she added bottled chilli sauce to her stir-fried crabs that it became an instant hit – which naturally, inspired nationwide chefs to try their hands at her recipe.

However, the taste of this unique dish that Singaporeans are so familiar with today is based on a recipe concocted by Hooi Kok Wah. While his name might not ring a bell, you might recognise Singapore’s four “heavenly kings” of Chinese cuisine. Yes, Hooi was one of them, and what he came up with was interesting. Using meaty mud crabs, he deep fries them in hot oil and then once more in a chilli sauce – a combination of sambal, lemon juice, tomato paste, vinegar and egg white. The result is what we’ve grown up savouring: tender and succulent crab meat that comes with a rich gravy that should only be eaten with mantous that are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.

We need chilli crabs, pronto!

Already thinking of having it for your next meal? Why not take one extra step and cook it yourself? Sure, chilli crab can be found easily at every other seafood restaurant, but there’s just something about eating this clawsome dish from the comforts of your own home! You can don the most comfortable and crab-sauce- appropriate outfit, and of course, fry as many golden mantous as your tummy can take.

If you’re wondering where in Singapore you should go to purchase fresh and good quality crabs, look no further than here at 8 Crabs. Not only do we carry large, meaty and live Sri Lankan wild catch mud crabs, we can even have them delivered to you in the same day, or better yet, within an hour – perfect for those with last-minute shell-abrations! With AAA-grade crabs that are flown into Singapore daily, you can dine assured knowing that it’s the freshest catch that you’re enjoying.

Now what?!

Well, getting the star of the show means half the battle is won! Well, sort of. You’ll still need to cook it – and you definitely can’t do so without the right ingredients. Read on to check out the items you’ll need in order to make your chilli crab a showstopper.

Overview of Ingredients
  • 800 g of Live Sri Lankan Mud Crabs
  • 5 + 2 tbsp of oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp of black bean sauce
  • 500 ml of water (or stock of your choice)
  • 3 Tbsp of chopped spring onions
  • ¼ cup of tomato puree
  • ¼ cup of tomato ketchup
  • 1 tsp of cornflour or corn starch (mixed with 2 tbsp of cool water)
  • 1 Tbsp of butter (optional)
Ingredients for your Chilli Paste
  • 5-6 long red chillies
  • 10 shallots
  • 6 large cloves of garlic
  • 2 pieces of peeled ginger
  • 1 piece of peeled galangal
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass (use the tender section and cut into rings)
  • 3 generous Tbsp of tomato paste (not tomato puree or sauce!)
  • 1 Tbsp of rice or white vinegar
  • ¼ tsp to 1 tsp of belachan (according to taste)
  • 1 tsp of dried shrimp
  • 4 tsp of sugar
  • ¼ tsp of salt to taste
Ingredients for your Garnishing
  • Cut spring onions
  • Cut red chilli
  • Chopped fresh coriander

Got them all? Now follow these simple steps in preparing your spice and crab and you’ll soon be whipping up the chilli crab of your dreams.

Preparation of Chilli Paste:
  1. Add all the ingredients for your chilli paste into a blender and blend it to become a smooth paste.
  2. Heat up your cooking oil in a well-seasoned wok (or pan) with a medium flame, and add in your paste.
  3. Fry until the paste gets cooked and the raw smell dissipates.
  4. Remember! The longer the paste is being fried, the deeper the colour and flavour will be.
  5. Add in your black bean paste and continue frying briefly.
  6. Stir in salt to taste.
  7. When the paste is nice, smooth and thick, remove it from your wok/pan and set it aside.
Preparation of Live Sri Lankan Mud Crabs:
  1. Turn the crab over and locate the pointy flap. Lift it, and you’ll see a small hole.
  2. Using a sharp, pointy knife, plunge it straight through until you touch the shell on the other side. This will effectively kill the crab instantly.
  3. Flip the crab over. With your thumb under the corner of the head shell, pry the shell open.
  4. Remove the spongy gills as well as the mandibles (mouth section) if you prefer.
  5. Drain any liquid and give the crab a quick rinse under running water.
  6. The top shell can be kept for presentation too, so give it a rinse if you intend to use it!
  7. Now, cut the crab vertically through the centre.
  8. If you like, separate the claw and leg sections from each other! To crack the claw, use the back of any large knife.
  9. Finally, cut the leg section further into 4 segments.
Cooking of your Singapore Chilli Crab:
  1. Add 2 Tbsp of oil to a clean wok and bring it to heat.
  2. Add in all sections of the crab, including the top shell, and fry it on high heat until it becomes an even shade of red across all parts. This should take a minute!
  3. Remove all fried crab and set it aside.
  4. Now, add your chilli paste into the wok and add in water (or stock), then bring it to a boil.
  5. Add the fried crab back in and cover it with a lid. Cook it for 20 minutes on a low-medium heat.
  6. Remove all crab sections from the sauce and set it aside once more.
  7. Add in your tomato puree and tomato ketchup. Be sure to stir through!
  8. Your chopped spring onions can now be added – followed by the cornflour-water mixture.
  9. Now, quickly add the beaten egg and swirl it through your sauce. Swirl the wok if you can – try not to stir. Allow it to set lightly through the sauce and throw in the optional butter (if you’re using)!
  10. Now, you can either add your crab back into the wok and toss it all together – or simply pour the sauce you have over your nicely-plated crab.
  11. Finally, dress it with finishing touches of sliced chilli, spring onions and chopped coriander.
  12. Now serve it with your deep-fried mantous, or hot white rice.

There you have it! An iconic plate of Singapore Chilli Crab is now on your dining table – waiting to be savoured. Whether you prefer it spicier, sweeter, stronger on the ketchup or even eggier is up to you to adjust. As long as you’ve got delicious fresh crabs from 8 Crabs, an abundance of tantalising gravy and a platter of golden mantous – what could go wrong? It might be a little messy, but hey, there’s no better way to enjoy this dish but with your two bare hands. At least it’ll be worth every bite!

Right now, there’s simply nothing else than to say than “bon appétit!” and dig in. Don’t be shellfish, be sure to share those mantous with your family!

To get your hands on the freshest, live Sri Lankan Mud Crabs, click here. Simply pick a size you like (choose from 600g, 800g, 1kg or 1.3kg), add to cart, check out, fill in your billing and delivery information and wait for your crabs to come knocking! With same day delivery or an express one-hour delivery, it doesn’t get any better than this.

This post was brought to you by 8Crabs. 

All opinions remain writer’s own. For more information, kindly refer to our copyright & disclosure policy.

To get featured on The Wedding Vow, email for advertising, for media invites. Click here for more information.