A Tribute to Chili Crabs

Let's behold the wonder that is chili crab. One of Singapore's national pride. Heavenly, out-of-body experience, bliss, finger-smacking goodness. These are all adjectives that could be used for other kinds of pleasures, but the full bodied experience of eating a Singaporean Chili Crab defies even these descriptions!

It is crab smothered in a magical sauce made out of chili, ketchup, and not much mystery. Need no more saying, everyone will have their constant crab cravings and fixes at their favourite crabbing place. And ever since I am back, I had already 3 takes on chilli crabs. Sadly, I realised that there isn't one that is truly authentic like the old days. Most of the restaurants, Melben, Long Beach to Jumbo had tweak their crabs to cater for the expats. Bland, often overly sweet, without the "mystery" kick that no restaurants can do now. Nothing is made now from scratch nowadays. The sauce is without with depths and layers. Mostly, all I taste is the Maggi ketchup as base flavour. Singaporeans are easily contented with ok tasting food I reckon.

Jumbo Sunday Crab Dinner

Was out with PY on Sun for casual dinner. The group went bigger, BC and KS brought along a just met a cute Japanese chick that they want to impress. We ended up at Dempsey Jumbo to show her the Singapore signatures and I decided to blog on chilli crabs, trying to compare if Jumbo version is any good. Suppose to post a pix of them getting in there all dirty with the liquid gold. "Why did you do that for?" is all they echoed with claws on hand. Boys are boys... so posting of faces on their rendezvous is strictly banned I suppose. Hopefully, hope the dinner had impressed her.

My reviews on Jumbo? Disappointing. Only the mantou turned out to be the star dish. At the very least, Jumbo is better than Long Beach. Then, I decided to try making crabs. I know I can definitely make better crabs. I've done it before previously but this time, I want to take a longer route - everything to be real and authentic. With a day of research, I've knocked out this awesome recipe. Do not believe in shortcuts, everything is made from scratch.
  • Mud Crabs (preferably Sri-lankan crabs, see source below for supplier)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Shallots, finely diced
  • Garlic, finely diced
  • Knob of ginger, finely grated
  • Water or chicken stock
  • Tomato ketchup jam (recipe follows)
  • Chilli base (recipe follows)
  • Brown sugar
  • Handful roasted peanuts, ground to paste
  • eggs x2, beaten
  • Man-tou (deep fried)
Tomato Ketchup Jam This replace the usual ketchup that restaurant uses.
  • Ripe tomatoes, 12-15
  • Peanut oil 500ml
  • Shallots chopped 10-15 small shallots
  • Garlic confit (roast 3-4 whole garlic in oven till tender, squeeze the pulp out of skin)
  • 2-3 knobs ginger
  • 2 pods cardomon
  • 1 teaspoon 5 spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2-3 Kaffir lime leaves
  • Fish sauce to taste
  • Gula or palm sugar or brown sugar to taste
  • White Vinegar
Roast tomatoes in oven until soft (180c for 30 mins) and puree. Force through sieve to remove seeds. Heat oil in pan, fry garlic, onion, ginger till fragrant. Add tomato puree and the rest of ingredient (to taste). Simmer and reduce so far that it is frying in the oil. About 1 hr. Store jam until needed.

Chilli Base
  • 6 big red chillies
  • 1 tablespoon balachan
  • 2 stalk lemongrass
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf
Pan roast balanchan to release oils, Blizz all ingredients to a fine paste.
Note: I previously use sambal oelek for this

Clean crab well and cut into 4, keeping the head and coral, crack the claws and leg with a pestle.
Heat oil in a wok until very hot, fry shallots, garlic, and ginger for 2 mins, then add chilli base and stir fry for 1 min, add tomato jam.

Add crabs and stir fry, add water and peanut paste, stir and cover until crab is cooked (10 min). Reduce the water down, turn off heat and add beaten egg to sauce.

To serve, place in a large bowl, top with chiffonade kaffir lime leave and coriander. Mop up the golden liquid with deep-fried mantou.

Allswell Seafood

Geylang Shop Houses
670 Geylang Road
Tel: 6745 1123

Last night, everybody came home for dinner. Sauce was perfect! Everything mopped clean.
Till next post, SS.

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