Where Is My Chili Crab?

Singapore is uniquely famous for our food culture, partially. Perhaps our food cuisine is a fusion of multiple cultures; Malay, Indian, Chinese and Western. One of our famous dishes is none other than Chili Crab. The founder of chilli crab is said to be Mdm Cher Yam Tian when, in the 1950s, she added chilli sauce to her dish of stir-fried crabs, instead of her usual tomato sauce.

Mdm Cher and her husband began to sell the "chili crab" dish from their pushcart along the east coastal area of Singapore. The business took off. Eventually, Palm Beach restaurant opened their doors back in 1962, located at 514 Upper East Coast Road. This has been documented. In 1984, the couple sold their restaurant business and migrated to New Zealand.

Mr. Hooi Kok Wah, who was a famous Chinese cuisine chef in the 1960s, opened Dragon Phoenix Restaurant in 1963. Chef Hooi created chilli crab with a gravy. It is rumored that he used lemon juice, vinegar, sambal, tomato paste and egg white for his gravy which has become a version that Singaporeans love today. Phew! That's a lot of history for a dish!

So, how am I gonna take this dish and bring it to the future? I used frozen crab meat. There is one thing which I dislike is getting my hands dirty when having a meal. Don't get me wrong. I eat pizzas and burgers with my hands; I am not a sociopath or psychopath. Okay, moving on. Anyway, my point is when I am being served with shrimps, fish or crab, I do not like getting my hands dirty or being scared that I might choke on a fish bone or broke my tooth which trying to get flesh outta a crab. You get my point.

I can't help but add a few elements to elevate the dish. I pureed the chili crab into a sauce, placing a fried mantou in the middle, garnish with some greens and grate some cured egg yolk over the top. Oh, did I mention that I added nori flakes, dried mushroom powder and miso too? Always looking to stack flavors. I want every mouthful to have an umami bomb and aftertaste. I really hope you will give my version of chili crab a try.


(Serve 4)

  • Spice Mix:

  • Dried Red Chilies, 10g Adjust to Preference

  • Canola / Peanut / Vegetable Oil, 3 TBSP

  • Yellow Split Peas, 10g

  • Fresh Red Chilies Deseeded, 3 Adjust to Preference

  • Bird's Eye Chili / Chili Padi Deseeded, 1 Adjust to Preference

  • Shallots Roughly Minced, 3

  • Garlic Roughly Minced, 4 Cloves

  • Lemongrass White Parts Only Finely Sliced, 1 Stalk

  • Candle Nuts / Macadamia Nuts, 3

  • Galangal Finely Minced, 1/2 Inch

  • Chili Crab:

  • Belacan Fermented Shrimp Paste, 1 TBSP

  • Tomato Ketchup, 2 1/2 TBSP

  • Hoisin Sauce, 1/2 TBSP

  • Oyster Sauce, 1/2 TBSP

  • Miso Stock, 1/2 Cup

  • Good Quality Crab Meat Fresh or Frozen, 125g

  • Palm Sugar / Gula Melaka, 1 1/2 TBSP Adjust to Preference

  • Sea Salt, Pinch

  • Egg, 1

  • Nori Flakes, Pinch

  • Dried Mushroom Powder, Pinch

  • Fresh Lime Juice, 1 Lime

  • Fresh Lime Zest, 1 Lime

  • Fried Mantou, 8

  • Fresh Coriander Finely Chopped, A Handful

  • Scallions Finely Chopped, A Handful

  • Cured Egg Yolk, For Serving


  • Blender

  • Cast Iron Skillet / Pan


  1. Pls visit my “How To Make Mantou / Bao / Turnover Bao" page for the recipe.

  2. Pls visit my “How To Cure Egg Yolks” page for the recipe.

  3. Prepare the spice mix.

  4. Soak dried chilies in a bowl of hot water until soften.

  5. Deseed if desired. Pad the chilies dry.

  6. In a skillet over medium heat, drizzle oil.

  7. Once the oil is heated up, add in the soaked dried chilies, peas and the rest of the chilies.

  8. Saute until aromatic.

  9. Transfer into a blender, reserving the oil in the skillet.

  10. Add the rest of the ingredients.

  11. Blitz until fine paste and set aside.

  12. You can add a bit of water to keep the blitzing going.

  13. Prepare the chili crab.

  14. In the same skillet over medium heat, add in belacan.

  15. Break the belacan into fine pieces with the back of a spatula.

  16. Toast the belacan until aromatic.

  17. Add in the spice mix.

  18. *You can add some water into the blender and clean up all the nooks + crannies, then add into the skillet.*

  19. Saute until most of the liquid is evaporated.

  20. Add ketchup, hoisin and oyster sauce.

  21. Stir well to combine. The color should turn a darker shade of red.

  22. Add in miso stock and crab.

  23. *To make miso stock, simply add 1/2 TSP of miso into 1/2 cup of hot water. Stir until the miso is dissolved.*

  24. Stir to combine well.

  25. Bring it up to a simmer.

  26. Continue to simmer for about 3 mins.

  27. Taste and adjust for seasoning with palm sugar and salt.

  28. Add in egg and stir to combine well.

  29. Remove from heat.

  30. Add in nori flakes, dried mushroom powder, lime juice and zest.

  31. *To make dried mushroom powder, simply blitz some Chinese dried mushroom in a spice grinder until powder forms.*

  32. Give it a final stir.

  33. Transfer into serving plates or bowls.

  34. Garnish with coriander and scallions.

  35. Grate some cured egg yolk over the top.

  36. Serve with fried mantou in the side.

  37. If you want the same plating as shown in the photo:

  38. Blitz the chili crab until smooth.

  39. Ladle onto serving plates.

  40. Place a fried mantou into the middle.

  41. Garnish with coriander and scallions.

  42. Grate some cured egg yolk over the top.

  43. Serve immediately.

#sgchilicrab #chilicrab #crab #singapore

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