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Singapore Chili Crab - In Collaboration with KRA Sanctuary

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

Singapore's food culture is a delightful fusion of various influences, combining Malay, Indian, Chinese, and Western cuisines. Among our famous dishes, Chili Crab stands out as a beloved favorite. Its origins can be traced back to Mdm Cher Yam Tian in the 1950s when she decided to add chili sauce to her usual stir-fried crab, breaking away from the traditional tomato sauce.

Mdm Cher and her husband started selling this innovative "chili crab" from their pushcart along the east coast of Singapore. The dish gained immense popularity, leading to the opening of Palm Beach restaurant in 1962 on Upper East Coast Road. Eventually, in 1984, the couple sold the restaurant and moved to New Zealand.

In the 1960s, renowned Chinese cuisine chef Mr. Hooi Kok Wah took the concept of chili crab to another level by creating a delicious gravy using lemon juice, vinegar, sambal, tomato paste, and egg white. This version has since become a beloved favorite among Singaporeans.

In my take on this iconic dish, I decided to make crab cakes and pair them with a rich roux-based chili crab sauce. Additionally, I crafted a delightful sandwich using fried mantou, crab cakes, and a luscious sauce. To complement the culinary experience, I am proud to collaborate with KRA Sanctuary and their artsy plates and bowls. So without further ado, let's dive into the mouthwatering recipe!



(Serve 4)

  • Simple Stock:

  • Water, 1L

  • Miso Paste, 1 TBSP

  • Spice Mix / Rempah:

  • Dried Kashmiri Chilies, 10g Adjust to Preference

  • Red Onion Wedged, 1

  • Garlic Crushed, 5 Cloves

  • Fresh Red Chilies Deseeded, 3 Adjust to Preference

  • Lemongrass White Parts Only Finely Sliced, 1 Stalk

  • Candle Nuts / Macadamia Nuts, 3

  • Galangal Grated, 1"

  • Fresh Lime Zest, 1 Lime

  • Fresh Lime Juice, 1 Lime

  • Chili Crab Sauce:

  • Belacan Fermented Shrimp Paste, 1 TBSP

  • High Quality Olive Oil, 2 TBSP

  • Tomato Ketchup, 2.5 TBSP

  • Hoisin Sauce, 1/2 TBSP

  • Oyster Sauce, 1/2 TBSP

  • Bleached All Purpose Flour, 30g

  • Unsalted Butter, 30g

  • Kewpie Mayo, 1.5 TBSP

  • Sea Salt, Pinch

  • Black Pepper, Pinch

  • Mushroom Powder, Pinch

  • Pure Honey, 1 TBSP Adjust to Preference

  • Crab Cakes:

  • Fried Mantou Homemade, 1 + More For Serving

  • High Quality Crab Meat, 500g

  • Scallions Thinly Sliced, 1 TBSP

  • Kewpie Mayo, 1.5 TBSP

  • Sambal Homemade, 1/2 TBSP Adjust to Preference

  • Egg, 1

  • Sea Salt, Pinch

  • White Pepper, Pinch

  • Mushroom Powder, Pinch



  • Blender / Food Processor / Stick Blender

  • Cast Iron Skillet / Pan

  • Oven

  • Sauce Pot

  • Pastry Rings



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

  2. Please visit my “How To Make Sambal” page for the recipe.

  3. Prepare the simple stock.

  4. In a sauce pot over medium heat, add water and miso paste.

  5. Stir to dissolve the miso paste.

  6. I like to add in all the vegetable scraps.

  7. Bring it up to a simmer.

  8. Continue cooking for 5 to 8 mins.

  9. Remove from heat, cover and steep for 10 mins.

  10. After 10 mins, drain and discard the residue.

  11. Set aside until ready to use.

  12. Prepare the spice mix.

  13. Hydrate the dried chilies in a bowl of hot water for about 30 mins.

  14. After the dried chilies have softened, discard the water, deseed and transfer to the rest of the ingredients.

  15. I am using a stick blender to blitz everything to a paste. You can use a blender or a food processor.

  16. Set aside.

  17. Prepare the chili crab.

  18. In a skillet over medium heat, add in belacan.

  19. Break the belacan into fine pieces with a spatula and toast until aromatic.

  20. Drizzle in the olive oil and saute until well combined.

  21. Add in the spice mix or rempah and saute until most of the liquid is evaporated.

  22. Add a splash of that simple stock to deglaze.

  23. Next, add ketchup, hoisin and oyster sauce.

  24. Stir well to combine.

  25. Continue sauteeing until the color has darkened.

  26. Add 1/2 cup of that simple stock and deglaze. Cook for another 1 to 2 mins.

  27. Remove from heat and set aside.

  28. In a sauce pot over medium heat, add butter and flour.

  29. Whisk to combine.

  30. Continue whisking until the mixture is brownish, for about 8 to 10 mins.

  31. Add 180g of that simple stock and whisk until well combined.

  32. Followed by the spice mix or rempah.

  33. Add in kewpie mayo and honey. Taste and adjust for seasonings with salt, pepper and mushroom powder.

  34. Give it a final stir to combine well.

  35. If you find that the sauce is too thick, add just a splash of that simple stock to loosen it up.

  36. You can pour this sauce into a blender and blitz, but I find that a stick blender does an easier job. Invest in 1.

  37. Blitz until smooth.

  38. Set aside until ready to use.

  39. Prepare the crab cakes.

  40. Preheat oven to broil.

  41. Blitz the fried mantou until crumbs form.

  42. Transfer the rest of the ingredients to a large bowl along with 1.5 TBSP of that mantou crumbs.

  43. Mix until well combined.

  44. Transfer into a pastry ring over a baking tray lined with parchment paper, making 4 crab cakes. There are 3 of us, so I was stretching the cakes to 6 pieces.

  45. Broil in the oven for 5 to 7 mins.

  46. Remove from the oven, flip and continue broiling for another 5 to 7 mins or until lightly browned.

  47. To serve.

  48. Spoon the sauce onto serving bowls.

  49. Sprinkle some fresh lime zest over the top.

  50. Serve immediately with the crab cakes and some fried mantou.

  51. *You can make a sandwich by slicing the fried mantou in halves lengthwise with some of that sauce and the crab cakes.*

There is no going back, cos this is probably one of the best sandwiches...

Mama Mia...


Recipe Video:

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