How To Make Delicious Chili Crab At Home

Chili crab is one of those dishes that embody and encapsulate Singaporean food culture. Many even call it the national dish of Singapore. Whether you agree or not, Chili Crabs are simply delicious and you probably have serious cravings for them all the time. 

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to find chili crabs in Singapore, as they’re sold in almost every seafood restaurant on the island. The best chili crabs in Singapore can even be found in humble neighborhood stalls, and not just Michelin star eateries.

However, it’s also useful to know how to make these at home, just in case you’re too busy or don’t feel like going out. Chili crabs are actually not that difficult to master. One tip you can bear in mind when making your version is to choose the freshest ingredients.

Source: Wikimedia Commonsa

Choosing The Best Crabs for Your Chili Crab

To be fair, you can actually cook your chili crab recipe with any type of crab you find. It works just as well. In Singapore, the most common crabs you’ll find at the wet markets and supermarkets are mud crabs and swimming crabs. 

You can recognize mud crabs from the size of their frontal pincers, which are larger and meatier than swimming crabs.

Male mud crab. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Swimming crabs have narrower front pincers. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Crabs vary in color when they’re raw, so you may see some which are a darker brown whilst others a bluish hue. No matter what color they are, you want to make sure that you buy a crab that isn’t swimming in water, but being placed on ice. 

This is because iced crabs are dormant and not too active, which means they’ve kept their energy and flavor since being caught. 

The next thing you want to decide is whether to get male or female crabs. If you pick female crabs, the chances of finding crab roe are higher. You can differentiate the two by the markings on their belly. Female crabs have a wider dome shaped marking while males have tall, narrow markings.

Male (top) and female ( bottom) crabs can be identified by their belly markings. Source: Wikimedia Commons

When buying the crabs, you can actually request the butcher to remove their upper shell so that you don’t have to struggle with it later.

Additional Cooking Tips Before You Start

Just like any other Southeast Asian dish, making chili crabs should be done the ‘agak-agak’ way. This means you don’t have to be exact when it comes to your ingredients. 

Rather, you should depend on your sense of smell, taste and eyes when cooking. After all, eye-balling the entire process is how the best chefs do it. 

Secondly, you can actually control the spiciness level of your chili crab. The recipe here calls for fresh chilies and dried chilies. If you want it spicier, you can increase the number of dried chilies or use bird’s eye chilies (cili padi) for that extra punch.

Source: Unsplash

Thirdly, this chili crab sauce is really very versatile. You can replace the crabs with any seafood of your choice, like lobster, prawns or clams. It will still come out well and fine. 

If you’re vegetarian, you can consider making this with vegan prawns or even tofu. Just coat your tofu with flour or breadcrumbs and pre-fry them before adding them to the sauce at the stage where we add the crabs.

Chili crab is traditionally eaten with mantou, a type of plain steamed chinese bun. More often than not, people also eat this with fried mantou. You can buy frozen mantou from the supermarkets nowadays, and steam or fry them yourself.

What Ingredients Do You Need for Chili Crab?

Here’s what you need to make chili crab at home:

4 pieces of crabs

6-8 pieces of fresh chilies. 

4 pieces dried chilies, soaked in hot water and then deseeded

3 cloves garlic, deskinned

2 cm fresh ginger, skin removed

2 shallots chopped

1 tablespoon taucu ( fermented soybean paste)

2 tablespoons oil

2 eggs

1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

2 cups warm water

4 tablespoons tomato ketchup

1 tablespoon sugar 

Salt ( to taste)

Let’s Get Cooking!

1. The first thing you want to do is wash the crabs thoroughly to get rid of any sand or dirt. Chop off the two large frontal claws and cook them separately. Then clip off the edges of their remaining claws. Remove the upper shell and chop your crab in half.

2. Next we’re grinding the aromatics. Remove the green stems from the fresh chillies and place them in your blender or food processor. Add in the dried chilies, ginger, garlic, and shallots. Blend the entire thing to a paste. Add about a quarter cup of water to get the blending process going if needed.

3. Heat the oil in a wok or pan. Once hot, add this blended chili paste to it and saute until the oil appears at the top of the paste.

4. Add your crabs in next. Cover the crabs in the paste. Don’t add in the upper shell yet. Saute for about 3- 5minutes.

5. Now add in the taucu, tomato ketchup, salt, sugar and 2 cups of water. Mix everything and let it come to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, add in the upper crab shells and bring down the flame to a simmer. Cover the dish and let it simmer for about 10 minutes on medium heat.

6. After 10 minutes, add in the diluted cornstarch and heat it up to thicken the gravy.

7. Beat two eggs, and add this to the gravy to thicken it further. Cook for 1nother 5 minutes until the eggs are cooked through.

8. Now your chili crab is done. You can garnish it with some chopped spring onions or coriander, and serve with steamed or fried mantou ( Chinese steamed buns).

Remember that practice makes perfect. The more you cook this chili crab recipe, the better you’ll get at it, and you’ll soon be able to rival the best chili crab Singapore hawker. Soon, you’ll also be able to tweak the recipe to your taste, and improve on it or make it healthier for personal consumption.

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