Chilli Crabs

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Far Flung Floyd

Far Flung Floyd

By Keith Floyd

Published 1994

  • About

I prepared this dish in the courtyard of a Portuguese restaurant in Malacca, where flat blue Swimmer crabs with quite soft shells are much prized. But there is no reason why you shouldn’t use our regular English crabs or Dublin Bay prawns or lobsters or crayfish. It is another of those dishes you eat with your fingers.

This recipe leaves the crabmeat inside the shell. If you don’t want the bother of digging out the crabmeat when you are eating this dish use cooked crabmeat flesh instead.


  • 1 blade of lemon grass, chopped
  • 10 shallots, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 5 cm (2 inch) piece of fresh root ginger, chopped
  • 2.5 cm (1 inch) piece of fresh turmeric, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon fish paste
  • 15 dried red chilli peppers
  • 3 tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind pulp, mixed with 4 tablespoons water, and strained
  • Salt and brown sugar to taste
  • Water
  • 900 g (2lb) crabs, boiled, cleaned and each body cut into 2 or 4 pieces, depending on size


Using a pestle and mortar or blender, grind the lemon grass, shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric, fish paste and chillies to make a paste.

Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok and fry the spice paste for 1 minute, stirring all the time, to release the flavours and make it more mellow.

Add the tamarind juice, salt and sugar, then pour in a little water. Bring to the boil and gently stir in the crabs. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. The crabs should be hot and well coated and the dish should be on the dry side without too much sauce.