Singaporean-Style Curry Crab

Singapore is an Asian city rich in many different cultures. One of the joys of visiting such a fascinating city is to sample its diverse foods. The blending of disparate traditions can be seen in the street hawkers’ stalls. A dish I often love to eat is Singapore’s Curry Crab, which is a mixture of Chinese and Indian influences. Although the authentic recipe has ingredients which may be difficult to obtain outside Singapore, I have adapted the idea and made my own mixture with delicious results. The spices are a wonderful contrast to the sweet crabmeat. Serve it with plain rice and another vegetable dish for a complete meal. Remember, it is important to buy the freshest crab available, preferably live.

It is perfectly good manners to eat the crab with your fingers, but I suggest that you have a large bowl of water decorated with lemon slices on the table so that your guests can rinse their fingers.

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  • 1.4 kg (3 lb) live or freshly cooked crab on the shell
  • 2 stalks fresh lemon grass
  • 2 tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded fresh root ginger
  • 4 tablespoons thinly sliced small onions or shallots
  • 3 tablespoons finely shredded spring onions
  • 3 tablespoons Madras curry paste
  • 400 ml (15 fl oz) tinned coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar


To cook a live crab, bring a large pan of water to the boil, drop in the crab and boil until there is no movement; this will take about 2 minutes. Remove the crab and drain thoroughly.

Remove the tail-flap, push the body with legs still attached away from the shell (A) and remove the stomach sac and feathery gills from the crab (B). Using a heavy knife or cleaver, cut the crab, shell included, into large pieces.

Cut the lemon grass into 5-cm (2-in) segments. With the flat side of a large knife or cleaver, smash the lemon grass pieces to release their aromatic oils.

Heat a wok or large frying-pan over high heat until it is hot. Add the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the lemon grass pieces, garlic, ginger and onions or shallots and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the spring onions and crab pieces and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Now add the remaining ingredients and continue to stir-fry the mixture over a high heat for about 2 minutes. Turn the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn the curry on to a large, warm serving platter and serve.