Black Pepper Crab

Ketam Lada Hitam


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes

    2 to 3

    servings as part of a multi-dish meal

Appears in

My lips tingle just thinking about the spicy black pepper sauce that clings to this crab. Each time I make it, it brings back memories of “al fresco” dining on Singapore’s east coast, where restaurants straddle the seashore. Uncompromisingly fresh crab is essential here: alive and kicking are the qualifiers. If that’s not available, choose shrimp as an alternative. If you do, split the shrimp shells up the back, devien them, and shorten the recipe cooking time. This recent addition to Singapore’s culinary cache uses butter in to soften the black pepper and garlic edge. I like to add a few teaspoons of oyster sauce to round out the flavor and help everything adhere to the crab


  • 1 lg. Live Dungeness crab or other Fresh crab, about 2 to 3 lbs. (.9 to 1.4 kg)
  • ¼ cup Vegetable oil
  • ½ cup Water
  • 2 Tbsp. Unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. Roughly Minced garlic
  • 4 tsp. Coarsely ground black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp. Thick soy sauce or 2 Tbsp. dark soy sauce and omit the salt
  • 2 tsp. Oyster sauce
  • ¼ tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. Granulated sugar
  • 6 sprigs Cilantro


  1. Prepare crab: Cut crab with by piercing through the center of the body with a knife, cutting through head. Pull off top shell; reserve. Pull off the feathery gills and bottom tail flap; discard. Cut entire crab in half from head to tail. Cut off both claws, cut body halves evenly in two so there are some walking legs on each piece. Rinse crab with cold water and drain very well. With heavy, blunt object (such as a mallet or the back of a cleaver) crack claw and thick legs to ensure seasoning penetrates.
  2. Cook the crab: In a large skillet, wok or Dutch oven over high heat, heat oil for 1 minute, until it almost begins to smoke. Add crab (drained of any moisture hat has gathered); stir-fry 3 minutes until crab begins to turn orange, and a roasted aroma is perceptible. Add water; cover and steam 2 minutes until crab is almost fully cooked. Remove crab and any remaining liquid from pot; reserve.
  3. Add butter, garlic, and black pepper to the pan; cook until garlic looses raw aroma, 20 seconds. Add crab back to pan, along with any juices that have collected. Stir in soy sauce, oyster sauce, salt, and sugar; cook, stirring, until crab is fully cooked and sauce is sticking all over crab exterior. If crab is cooked and sauce is not thick, remove crab, boil sauce until thickened, and then add crab back top pan and toss to coat.
  4. Transfer to serving platter and garnish with cilantro sprigs.