Chili Crab

This recipe comes from Sri Owen’s Indonesian Regional Cookery. For us in Britain, it is a slightly unusual way to cook crab, but I find it delicious, and it totally justifies the work involved.


  • 2 crabs, 1 lb each, live or cooked
  • ¼ cup peanut or groundnut oil or other cooking oil
  • 6 shallots or 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 8 fresh hot red chili peppers, seeded and thinly sliced slantwise
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • A ¾-in piece of fresh ginger root, peeled, thinly sliced, and cut into tiny shreds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • Salt


Rinse live crabs well before plunging them into boiling water and leaving them to simmer for 18-20 minutes. If you are using crabs that are already cooked but still unopened, plunge them into boiling water and simmer for only 5 minutes. Take them out of the water and leave to cool on a tray.

In a wok or heavy pan, heat the oil and Stir-fry the shallots or onion for 3 minutes. Transfer the shallots or onion to a plate, and discard half the cooking oil. Heat the oil remaining in the wok and add the chilies, garlic, and ginger. Stir-fry for 1 minute, then add the coriander, water, and soy sauce. Stir, and leave to simmer for about 2 minutes. Adjust the seasoning and remove from the heat. Return the shallots or onion to the wok and set aside.

When the crabs are cool enough to handle, pull off the hood (which is actually the underside of the crab) and discard it. Cut off the claws. Break the shell open and remove the meat to a plate. Take out and discard the “dead men’s fingers” in the inedible parts of the body of the crab.

Cut the shell into 4 pieces and put these together with the larger fragments of the claw shell into a large bowl. Wash them in warm water and dry with paper towels. Put them on a baking pan in a preheated oven at 230°F to warm until ready to serve.

Heat the wok or frying pan again and Stir-fry the chili and shallot mixture for 1 minute. Add the crab meat and continue Stir-frying for 2 minutes or until the crab meat is hot. Add the lime juice and stir again.

Spread the warmed pieces of shell on a serving platter and fill with the chilied crab meat. Serve straightaway.