Chilli Crab

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Singapore has many extant versions of chilli crab—some with a more sambal-like sauce, others heavier on the ketchup and still others rich with ribbons of beaten egg—invented and evolved by seaside seafood restaurants in the 1950s and 1960s. This is a simple version that emphasises the flavours of the fresh crab and the floral heat of chilli.

Ingredients

  • Live mud crab 1, weighing about 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz)
  • Cooking oil 2 Tbsp
  • Shallots 4, peeled and minced
  • Garlic 5 cloves, peeled and minced
  • Ginger 2-cm (¾-in) knob, peeled and minced
  • Finely minced lemon grass 1 Tbsp
  • Pounded galangal 2 tsp
  • Rice wine 1 Tbsp
  • Preserved soy bean paste (taucheo) 1 Tbsp, pounded
  • All-purpose chilli sauce 6 Tbsp
  • Tomato ketchup 2 Tbsp
  • Sugar 1 Tbsp or to taste
  • Water 200 ml ( fl oz / cup)
  • Eggs 2, small, beaten

Method

  1. Place crab in the freezer for 2 hours to immobilise and sedate it.
  2. Place crab on a chopping board with its underside facing upwards. Pull off and discard the ‘apron’ flap on the crab’s abdomen. With a sharp heavy cleaver or knife, chop down the centre line of the crab body, cutting all the way through to the main body shell without breaking the shell. Turn crab over and prise off the main body shell, and set aside. Chop off claws and crack them so they absorb the sauce later. Pull off and discard feathery gills, crinkly white intestines and dark guts from body pieces. With a sharp cleaver, cut each body half into 2 or 3 smaller pieces. Wash all pieces well and drain.
  3. Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add shallots, garlic, ginger, lemon grass and galangal and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes, until softened and fragrant. Add rice wine and preserved soy bean paste and stir-fry for 15 seconds.
  4. Add chilli sauce, tomato ketchup and sugar and stir well. Add water and all the crab pieces. Cover and cook for 2 minutes, then remove lid and cook for another 4–5 minutes, stirring frequently, until crab is cooked through and gravy has reduced slightly.
  5. Transfer crab pieces to a serving plate, leaving gravy in wok. Adjust seasoning of gravy with salt and/or sugar to taste. Pour beaten eggs into gravy in a thin stream while stirring constantly, to form egg threads.
  6. Pour gravy over crab pieces, garnish as desired and serve hot with sliced French loaf.