Singapore Chili Crab

Singapore Chili Crab

The great thing about a country that is more concerned with having a few days off than with public holiday political correctness is that everyone gets a 4 day break for the Easter Long Weekend. This year, Anzac Day happened at the same time and we all ended up with 5 glorious [albeit rainy] days off. Thursday was like Friday, Saturday lasted for 4 days and Tuesday evening has had that Sunday feel about it… We did very little for most of it and I cooked alot. [I know ‘alot’ is not really a word and I still get shivers thinking about the 3rd grade teacher that drove that into us, but I use it anyway. She would be so disappointed. Shame.]

We braved the Fish Markets on one of its busiest days for these Blue Swimmer Crabs – had every intention on using live Mud Crab but the little suckers are over double the price of the Blueys and most of the weight is in the shell – so um, no.

This is not a dish for a fancy dinner party or something to serve to your mother-in-law [unless she is happy with a fingerprint covered drinking glass and is not precious about sauce up to her elbows]. It is however much easier to make than it would initially appear and a big fun mess to eat. We cover the dining table in newspaper due to the fact that it just makes it easier to clean up once the carnage is over!


There is a bit of sugar in this due to the ketchup [I’m yet to find one that is sugar free] but the extra sugar in my original recipe has been removed and I found that it wasn’t really missing with all the other flavours.  No, they weren’t alive – if they are, go the freeze and steam method first before you start cutting….

The Crab

Most Singapore Chili Crab is deep fried then finished in the sauce. We know I don’t play that game so instead I stir-fry the crab first then steam/simmer it in the sauce to cook through.  You will want lots of bread to go with the leftover sauce, it is a bit like a crab and chili stew – gorgeous.  It also pairs really well with a really cold beer [or in our case sparkling apple].

Crab claw


Singapore Chili Crab


1kg [2.2lbs] Blue swimmer crabs – approx 2-3
¼ cup cornflour
sesame or peanut oil

3-4 small red chillies
¾ stalk lemongrass
1×2 cm piece ginger
1-2 bunched stalks coriander [cilantro]
1 tsp fish sauce or shrimp paste

4 cloves garlic
1×2 cm piece ginger
3 eshallots*

1 cup stock
¼ cup ketchup

To serve:
Green onion [scallions] thinly sliced
Coriander leaves
Lime wedges
Thick sourdough, French bread or flat breads

Under 100 words:

Clean and quarter the crab. Make a paste from chili, through fish sauce. Grate garlic and ginger, dice eshallots. Mix stock and ketchup. Coat crab in corn flour and stir-fry in 1-2 Tbsp of oil till just red on the edges, remove and set aside. Fry chili paste 30 secs till fragrant, add garlic mixture and fry for another minute. Return crab to pan, stir to coat in spices, mix through stock/ketchup mixture. Simmer covered 10 minutes, turning once. Remove crab, simmer for another minute or two to thicken sauce. Serve with onions, coriander, lime and bread.

Full Method:

Scrape seeds out of chillies and roughly chop. Roughly dice the ginger. Discard the bottom 2cm and tough outer layer of the lemongrass, thinly slice ¾ of remaining stalk from the bottom.  Chop roots and 3cm of the stalk from the coriander – set aside leaves for garnish.  Using a mortar and pestle [or a small grinder/processor], work chili, ginger, lemongrass, coriander root and fish sauce to a paste.

Finely dice eshallots, grate remaining ginger and crush or grate garlic, set aside.  Mix together stock and ketchup in a small jug.

Clean crabs* and cut into 4 pieces each.  Toss in corn flour to coat lightly.  Heat a large stockpot or wok on medium heat. Using approx 1-2 Tbsp peanut or sesame oil, stir-fry crab pieces in batches until they just begin to turn orange. Set aside.

In the same pan, heat another 2 tsp oil.  Stir-fry chili paste for 30 sec until fragrant.  Add garlic/ginger/eshallot and stir-fry for a further 1 min. Add crab and toss to coat with the mixture.  Stir in ketchup sauce and toss to combine all ingredients. Cover pan with a lid and simmer on low for 10-12 mins, stirring once.

Remove crab and place on plates. Simmer sauce for 1 min more to thicken if necessary.  Pour sauce over crab.  Garnish with coriander leaves, green onions and lime wedges. Serve with warm bread.

Serves 2 as a meal or 4 as a starter.


  • Cleaning crab: From back of crab, lift triangle piece towards head and remove.  Lift top shell from the same edge and remove along with all the innards.  Clean out gills [the spiky finger shaped bits] and guts. Rinse under water to remove remaining insides – some people like the yellow ‘mustard’ but it freaks me out.   Using a large knife, cut through centre of the body into two halves.  Cut each half again between 2nd and 3rd leg – leaving one quarter with a leg and a claw, and the other quarter with 3 legs.
  • Eshalotts are French shallots, I didn’t have any so a quarter of a red onion did the job just fine.


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