Singapore Chilli Crab – one for the crab lovers

by Forager on September 8, 2010

Crabs provide so much culinary pleasure for me and they easily make the list of my top 5 foods I couldn’t live without. One of my all-time favourite meals to indulge in is a massive, messy pile of delicious crab – great when devoured at restaurants; but most preferably done at home, with a very small group of close family and friends, slowly, meticulously and systematically devouring every last morsel of tasty, tasty crab flesh.

I’ve eaten my fair share of crab, from mud crabs, spanner crabs, blue swimmers, shore crabs, stone crabs, shanghai hairy crabs, Alaskan king crabs and more in a variety of cooking methods and sauces. I’ve now consumed enough now to really feel I know which crabs I personally like the most and the best flavours to compliment them. On a recent trip to the Hunter with a small group of wine buff friends, I cooked up a crab feast and shared some of my favourite ways to eat crab.

No crab feast of mine would be complete without Alaskan king crab! I’ve posted about this delectable species before but I just think the intense sweet flavour of Alaskan king crab is so worth raving about. If you love crab but haven’t tried this – you’re missing out. It’s pure, unadulterated crab – best enjoyed in the most natural state possible: cooked and simply dressed with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Whilst I’d love nothing more than to gorge myself excessively on a monstrous pile of Alaskan king crab, unfortunately it is a pricey creature, sold at generally inelastic market price of $46 – 48/kg. So we’re having it for entree instead – a leg per person, which works out at a more reasonable fee of $9 per person. Sounds pricey still for a leg, but unlike other crabs – with these generous animals you don’t pay for any heavy carapace. The shell is light & flexible and jam-packed with large steak like crab fillets. It needs to be eaten to be believed, crab lovers.

Alaskan king crab

Entree: sinfully good Alaskan king crab legs

The rest of the crab feast was intended to be a big mud crab bonanza, but little did I know it is currently not mud crab season, and from about July – October, the tasty critters are in hiding in preparation for mating during the warmer months and are thus in scarce supply. They were as expensive as the decidedly more premium Alaskan king crab harvested from the treacherous heaving waters of the Bering sea, fetching a phenomenal $48/kg!! I couldn’t bring myself to pay that much for heavy shells so we opted for green (uncooked) blue swimmer crabs – a veritable steal at $17/kg! Blue swimmers are fiddly and their flesh quantity to the work required to get flesh ratio is low, but the flesh is sweet and tasty and patience is well rewarded.

The blue swimmers were cleaned, their gills and carapaces removed, the legs broken in single pieces and cracked to ensure the sauces they would be cooked in will seep through thoroughly. (For thorough instructions on choosing and cleaning crab, see my salt and pepper crab post here)

Green blue swimmer crab

Cleaned and prepped green blue swimmer crabs

We decided to cook them 2 ways – the first was in a Hong Kong-style Typhoon Shelter sauce; a lip-smackingly garlicky, spicy concoction that we buy pre-bottled direct from the famous Hee Kee store every time either we or friends stopover in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, as it is pre-bottled I don’t have the recipe to share (although I intend to figure it out myself one day!).

Typhoon shelter crab

Crab feast option 1: Typhoon shelter crab

The second option for our crab feast is our recipe of the ever-popular Singapore chilli crab. It’s inspired by the Singapore chilli crab we tried at Seri Nonya, the popular Malaysian restaurant in Miranda, first introduced to us by our friend Dr Sue. We tried their recipe and whilst we found it tasty, it was too sweet and not nearly spicy enough for our tastebuds so this is our heavily adapted, adulterated version designed with the intention of having a copious amount of sauce to crab ratio.


Singapore Chilli Crab

(Heavily adapted from Seri Nonya’s Singapore Chilli Crab recipe)

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 4 crabs, cleaned (use 1 blue swimmer or 0.5kg mud crab pp)
  • 1 bulb garlic, diced
  • 4 tbsp ginger, grated
  • 1 cup lemongrass (white part only), very finely diced (about 4 stalks)
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 4 birds eye chillies (use 1 pp, more if you prefer it spicy)
  • 1 700g jar of passata
  • 1 tbsp grated palm sugar
  • 1 egg beaten lightly
  • 1 cup fish or chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup of sliced spring onions (green section) to garnish
  • 1 cup of Thai basil to garnish
  • sticky rice or toasted bread to serve


1. Heat oil in large wok or pot. Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, onion and chillies and fry on low heat until fragrant and the onion turns transparent. Add the passata, stock, sugar and salt to taste.

2. When the mix comes to the boil, add the crab and mix to cover crab.

3. Allow to simmer, cover and stir occasionally for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size and amount of crab used. (Mud crabs will take an extra 5 minutes).

4. Turn off the heat, add the beaten egg to sauce and mix well. Serve with toast or sticky rice to mop up the sauce.

Singapore chilli crab sauce

Frying up the Singapore chilli crab sauce

Singapore chilli crab

Crab feast option 2: Singapore chilli crab

We descended on the crab like seagulls diving for chips and the noisy excitement was soon replaced by just the sound of noisy, wet excited eating, and the occasional loud cracking of crab shells.

And given the Asian theme, we paired it with some of our favourite Asian salads – a green mango salad, green papaya salad (som tum) and sticky rice. The crunchy texture of the salads, the fresh herby flavours and spicy kick complement the crab very nicely.

Green mango salad

Green mango salad

Green papaya salad

Green papaya salad

And with all that leftover sauce, the only thing to do is to frugally save every last spoonful – don’t even think of throwing it away! When peppered with morsels of sweet crab flesh it is just moreishly divine with creamy scrambled eggs on toast the next day.

So -do you have a favourite way to eat your crab? Or do you have a favourite Singapore chilli crab recipe? From one crab lover to another – pray do tell your crabby secrets!


Dedicated to Dr Sue, who introduced me to Seri Nonya so many years ago, and who reads my posts in the wee hours of the morning on her iPhone when feeding baby Maya. Congratulations to you both!

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amy @ cookbookmaniac September 8, 2010 at 10:49 pm

oh my goodness. kudos to you for making this delectable dish. I now have a massive craving for crab :(
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2 Conor @ HoldtheBeef September 9, 2010 at 12:46 am

I think this could possibly be the perfect meal. I was already in heaven looking at the crab dishes, and then you totally stepped it up into whatever is above heaven with the two salads and the rice. Oh god, I need to lie down.

3 Bonnibella September 9, 2010 at 6:26 am

I am definitely going to use your recipe, perfect timing as I was looking for a Singapore style crab dish. November is Dungeness crab season for us so I’ll let you know how the dish went. Good idea with using the sauce to scramble eggs.
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4 Steph September 9, 2010 at 8:30 am

Haha that’s so interesting that you mention Seri Nonya, my family used to trek out to Miranda just for their chilli crab ages ago! How long ago did you go? Your version sounds wonderfully spicy and loving the amount of sauce!
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5 April @ My Food Trail September 9, 2010 at 10:15 am

Ooh, I would have loved to be at this crab feast!! I love crab and certainly got my share of mud crabs during this year’s season!

When I was in Vegas we went to a buffet that had Alaskan king crab legs on offer, but the meat was all watery and mushy, not nice at all! My favourite way to eat crab is definitely Singapore chilli style!
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6 JT @ areyouhungary September 9, 2010 at 11:45 am

Wow, those crabs all look delish – I can never really go past Singapore Mud Crab. Totally worth the messy hands, face, kitchen, table etc etc!
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7 Helen (grabyourfork) September 9, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I was staring at every photo thinking this meal could not get any better and then I saw the pic of the green mango salad. omg! You sure know how to throw a dinner party :)

8 Reemski September 9, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Seriously: Drooling. Like all over the laptop.
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9 foodwink September 9, 2010 at 9:39 pm

YUM! Love Singaporean chili crab. Wish I had known about Hee Kee’s sauce when I visited hong kong earlier this year.
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10 Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella September 9, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Mmm this is one of my favourite ever dishes! I always ask for it for christmas dinner-with the noodles to soak up that delicious sauce of course! 😉
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11 L-bean September 10, 2010 at 12:29 am

Thanks babes. I’m off to bed and all i can think about is delicious chilli crab. Yum!

12 Betty September 10, 2010 at 11:07 am

green mango salad looks awesome
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13 angie September 10, 2010 at 3:20 pm

You sure sound like one crab expert! =D Mmm, the usual around our household is salt and pepper fried crab or crab in tamarind sauce, I’ve discovered a recipe for a really saucy chilli crab which my family has fallen in love with.
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14 Sophia September 10, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Ok, I have to make that green mango salad. Looks soooo delish!

15 Maria @ Scandifoodie September 11, 2010 at 4:47 am

This looks amazing! I’ve always wanted to try this dish!
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16 Sara (Belly Rumbles) September 12, 2010 at 11:45 pm

Crab is just so fantastic. Saw some Alaskan at my local mongers on Thursday evening, hope they still have it this week.
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17 Trissa September 17, 2010 at 7:48 pm

And here I was thinking I was the serious crab lover – oh next to you I don’t stand a chance! Beautiful presentation of the chili crab and the side salads look like a perfect accompaniment.

18 SK September 19, 2010 at 10:52 am

Nothing like tucking into a good crab.
Always wondered why they didn’t do a soft shell crab equivalent.
(I’m lazy to tease the meat out. ;P)
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19 Iron Chef Shellie September 19, 2010 at 8:45 pm

YUmmmmm!!! I definitely over due for a serving of crab!
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20 the ninja September 20, 2010 at 8:15 pm

chilli crab



looks a little watery though? then again I’ve always been more partial to black pepper crab…but not complaning. fond memories of waves snicking at structurally-unsound piers heh

21 Brett @ October 15, 2010 at 3:04 pm

The best I’ve tried is Malaccan Black Pepper Crab… made with butter + fresh CURRY LEAVES…

no contest, it’s the best.

22 Forager October 17, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Hey Amy – Sorry! I always have cravings for crab so I sympathise!

Hey Conor – You’re hilarious lady! Recipe of that fantastic mango salad on the way shortly!

Hey Bonnibella – Ooh, I wish we had Dungeness crabs here. I keep reading about them and would love to try them. Glad the recipe came in handy!

Hey Steph – I reckon I would’ve been there about 6 or 7 years ago the first time, and then again about 5 years ago. Shame it’s closed. The drive to Miranda was worth it!

Hey April – really? That’s not good news as I’ve been looking forward to those Vegas buffets for a while now – don’t tell me they’re no good!

Hey JT – Absolutely agree. It’s perfect at home, so you can take all the time in the world plucking out the tasty crab getting all dirty & sticky. BTS.

Hey Helen – That’s a very big compliment coming from the queen of awe-inspiring dinner parties! Thanks! Shucks!

Hey Reemski – It’s mean of me to tempt others with crab I know. :)

Hey Foodwink – Oh, HeeKee’s sauce is amazing. A little bit in a stir fry also goes a long way. You’ll have to visit the next time you’re in HK!

Hey Lorraine – Not a bad idea! Crab for Christmas dinner. Yum!

Hey L-Bean – You know all you need to do is ask and I’ll make it for you :)

Hey Betty – The green mango salad is delicious. I’ll post the recipe soon!

HeyAngie – Love the sound of the salt and pepper crab with tamarind – I’ll have to find a recipe & try that :)

Hey Sophia – I’ll make it for you :)

Hey Maria – If you’re a fan of crab, you’ll love it!

Hey Sara – If they don’t have it, the fish markets are usually a sure bet. Price is pretty stable at about $46/kg.

Hey Trissa – I think I’m just more vocal right? Love to see & share your crab recipes fellow crab lover!

Hey SK – I’m sure you can, but probably not the saucy varieties as the batter would soften. Maybe a salt and pepper version or pepper crab?

Hey Iron Chef Shellie – Definitely! Lack of crab does bad things for your (mental) health! Or it does for me at least 😉

Hey Ninja – Cripes you’re dramatic (and scary!). I haven’t had black pepper crab in a while – time to revisit I think. I make our recipe extra saucy so we can have leftovers on toast – it’s awesome!

Hey Brett – Ooh that sounds amazing. I love the sound of adding fresh curry leaves. Will have to check that out! Thanks for the link!

23 sunbad October 29, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Hi Trina! Lovely to meet you the other night at the Four in Hand. Can’t wait to see the photos – iPhones aren’t even good phones so I don’t know why I thought they’d be good cameras!

Anyway, I love SCC – and I discovered that Malacca Straits in Broadway will do your own crab for $20. So if you can come straight from the fish markets with a live crab, Chef Tang – who was apparently executive chef at Malaysian Airlines before working at the original Broadway Malaya – will make it for you. The food there is EXCELLENT, especially the dry curry prawns and the ikan bilis. We tried the chicken rice – without the chicken, along with the chilli sauce – and it was excellent. As good as Singapore Shiok or Astana. Anyway, worth a try if you’re not in the mood for cooking or washing up but you happen to have the crab handy…

24 natasia November 2, 2010 at 10:05 am

Hi, love your blog. Stumbled into it whilst doing a search on Singapore Chilli Crab recipes :)

I must second Sunbad’s recommendation about Malacca Straits on Broadway – to those in the know, this place surely ranks as one of the best Malaysian restaurants in Sydney, if not the best. My favourites are the Hainan Chicken rice, the Butter Chicken (that comes with a wicked angel-hair egg topping), the Silken Tofu with mince chicken, but nothing beats their BYO crabs.

I really love it that they’ll cook your crab for $20 per crab – surely the best bargain in town when you consider that you may have to fork out at least $120 per kg when you go to those places that have crabs in the display tanks – and they’ll cook it either Singapore Chilli or Dry Curry style for you. I had my crabs cooked in both styles and to say they were lip-smacking good is doing them an injustice. They’re truly food porn :)

If you never have Singapore Chilli crab before this is the place to go.

25 Forager November 22, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Hey Sunbad – Great to meet you too! And I’ve finally posted that Four in Hand post! Just a few weeks late.. hehe. Malacca Straits at Broadway? Where has this tip been hiding?! The fresh crab idea is pure genius and I intend to get there quick smart with a live snapping crab! Thanks for the tip!

Hey Natasia – Gosh! I can’t believe I’ve not heard of this place let alone live and breathe in it. Sounds like my kind of restaurant. That’s 2 votes for crab and 2 for the Hainan chicken. I think I need to round up a crew and try both the Singapore Chilli and dry curry style. Thanks again for the tip!

26 Melissa December 21, 2010 at 9:04 pm

thanks for the recipe!! i’m salivating when i was looking at the chilli crab photos.. going to try and cook that!
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27 Forager January 4, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Hey Melissa – Ah – good luck! I tried to buy some crabs from the fish markets on the weekend to make this again – unfortunately the mud crab prices are too stupidly expensive at the moment. Now it’s all I can think about! Crab…

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