How to make Singapore Chilli Crab, meaty crabs in a rich, sweet and spicy sauce.
Singapore Chilli Crab is the most popular dish coming off Singapore! This is the most globally well-known dish in Singapore, and with good reason. Meaty crabs cooked in a rich, sweet and spicy eggy gravy… this dish is such a favourite.
I love Chilli Crab, but I don’t love having it at restaurants. It’s messy to eat, can be expensive, plus I have to share that crab claw *cue the awkward moments of asking “anyone else wants the claw”* So I make this at the comfort of my home, where I can be as messy as I want – and it will, because that sauce is HEAVENLY – and I don’t have to share!
Singapore Chilli Crab is a true classic. It’s also unbelievably easy to make, and quick as well. In this post, I’ll be showing you how you can get authentic, restaurant-quality Chilli Crab without much effort at all!
What Crabs to use Chilli Crab?
The most typical crabs to use would be Mud Crabs. These are crabs with big, meaty claws. That said, other crabs can work with this too.
I also enjoy making this with flower crabs. In fact, the only reason why I’ve not gone round to posting this recipe is because I usually make this with flower crabs! Flower crabs tend to not have as much meat in it, meaning much more effort to scrounge up meat. It is delicious though – it has such a sweet meat. It’s also a lot more cheaper, and is more readily available at my local market. In fact, it’s available pretty much everyday, versus mud crabs which can be slightly harder to find.
Note: I indicated that this recipe uses 1kg of crabs. I used two crabs here, each is 500-600g. This is BEFORE the cutting and cleaning of crabs. The actual final weight would be LESS than the 1kg.
Can I use anything besides crab? Yes! Try this with prawns!
How to Prepare Crab for Cooking?
For the best-tasting results, you have to use freshly cut live crabs! Unfortunately when it comes to the HOW of kill crabs for freshness, I’m useless.
I’m terribly squeamish about this, so I would get the fishmonger to do this for me. If you are doing this as well, always time such that you are able to cook it immediately. The best would be to find an online delivery service that will freshly cut the crabs at the appointed delivery timing. You definitely DO NOT leave it overnight.
A couple of additional tips to preparing Mud Crabs (that I can actually be helpful with):
- Before cooking the crabs, crack the claws. This helps to break the claws for easier eating later on, plus it allows the meat there (which is the meatiest) to cook through as well. Do this by gently knocking the claws with the back of the knife or a pestle.
- You might see some yellow mustardy stuff on your crabs. Do not clean this off! This crab mustard or tomalley has a lot of briny, umami flavours to it that is especially great in Chilli Crab. It goes great with the eggy flavours of the sauce.
How to Make Singapore Chilli Crab
Step 1: Make the Dried Chilli Paste
Blend all the ingredients to a fine paste first.
Step 2: Prepare the live crabs
If you have live crabs, cut and clean them AFTER making the chilli paste so you can cook it immediately.
Step 3: Make the Chilli Crab Sauce
Stir fry the dried chilli paste until it cooks down. Stir in the other sauces.
Step 4: Stir in the crabs
Stir the crabs with the sauce.
Step 5: Add the water and cook the crabs
Let the crabs cook.
Step 6: Stir in the sauce thickeners
Stir in cornstarch slurry and the eggs until the sauce thickens. Once gravy is thick, Chilli Crab is done! Serve immediately.
What do you Need to Make the Chilli Crab Sauce
Chilli Crab is ALL about the sauce. You have to get the sauce absolutely right. The most important component here is the Sambal Chilli Paste, which is the base of a lot of my Malay recipes here:
- Dried Chillies: If you’re Southeast Asian, you should not have any issues finding dried chillies. I’m using Asian spur chillies here, essentially any dried chillies that’s medium in heat can work. Dried kashmiri, serrano, arbol can work for this. Prepare the dried chillies first, pouring boiling water to rehydrate and soften the chillies. See my post on how to prepare dried chilli paste.
- Belachan/Shrimp Paste: You can make a good paste with JUST the above ingredients – that’s right! I’m adding shrimp paste here, totally optional, for a bit more umami in the sauce. But again, totally optional.
That’s all you need for the paste. This is essentially to get a rich, depth of spice and flavour to the dish. Not adding this is just not Chilli Crab!
- Tomato Ketchup: Chilli Crab has a tang to it, and it’s all coming from the tomato ketchup. This is just good ol’ plain tomato ketchup (can be known as tomato sauce) that you use to dip your fries in.
- Chilli Sauce: I want to say this is optional as well, but most restaurants here would add a couple dollops of chilli sauce. Chilli Sauce is the bottled sweet variety, NOT sriracha, which is spicy and vinegary, and often not sweet at all.
- Oyster Sauce (optional): This is definitely optional, but I like the extra bit of umami. Do not add too much, since you definitely do not want to taste oyster sauce at all.
What to Serve Chilli Crabs With
There are three ways of serving this:
- By itself: no other carbs needed, just go in straight for the crabs!
- With rice
- With Mantou Buns: This is the most common way of serving and it’s most certainly MY favourite way of having Chilli Crab! Dipping the mantou buns in the chilli crab sauce is the best thing ever!
How to Deep Fry the Mantou Buns?
The mantou buns can be prepared two ways: steamed or fried to golden brown! I just get the ready-made, frozen mantou buns.
Deep frying it takes super quick! The mantous are already cooked so there’s no actual cook time needed. Just 1-2 minutes in the oil, until it gets golden brown and the mantous are brown.
To deep fry these, defrost the mantou buns before deep frying. You CAN actually deep fry these without defrosting but I find that it takes longer to get it golden brown. The interior will also take a while to warm up.
- Use low to medium heat: do not use high heat or you might burn the mantous!
- Continuously flip the mantous in the oil until both sides is a nice golden colour.
More Recipes Like This
Singapore Chilli CrabCourse: Recipes
1 kg or 2 medium-sized Mud Crabs, cut and cleaned
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup Tomato Ketchup
2 tbsps Chilli Sauce
1 tbsp Oyster Sauce (optional)
500ml Water or Stock
1 tsp Salt, or to taste
1 tsp Sugar, or to taste
Cornstarch Slurry: 1 tbsp cornstarch + 2-3 tbsps water
A handful of Coriander
- Chilli Paste
10g Dried Chillies or 2 tbsp Dried Chilli Paste
2-3 cloves Garlic
50g or 1 Onion
20g or 1 inch Ginger
1 tsp Shrimp Paste (optional)
1/4 cup Water, or just enough to blend
- Serve with
Fried Mantou Buns
- Making the Dried Chilli Paste
- Pour boiling water over the dried chillies and let it rehydrate and soften for about 5 minutes. Drain the dried chillies and cut into smaller pieces for easier blending.
- Add the dried chillies and the rest of the ingredients to a blend. Blend until you get a fine paste.
- Making the Chilli Crab
- In a wok, add plenty of oil and heat over low to medium heat. Once hot add the blended dried chilli paste. Continuously stir until fragrant and the paste has dried down slightly. There should also be oil surfacing or floating over the paste. See my post on how to properly cook dried chilli paste here.
- Stir in tomato ketchup, chilli sauce and oyster sauce.
- Add the crabs, without the top shell or carapace. Stir to combine until crabs are coated.
- Pour in water or stock next. Add as much liquid as you want sauce. Stir to combine. Top with the carapaces and cover wok with a lid. Let the crabs completely cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the carapaces turn completely orange-red.
- Once cooked, give the sauce a taste test. Season with salt and sugar, to taste. This depends on how much liquid you added.
- Gradually stir in cornstarch slurry. Do not add too much. If using less water, you may not even need cornstarch slurry.
- Once slightly thick, stir in the eggs.
Option to remove all of the crabs until you are left with just the sauce. While stirring the sauce, slowly pour in the eggs. This is going to create large egg ribbons running through the sauce.
- Once the eggs cook, Chilli Crab is done!
- Plate Chilli Crabs, top with coriander, and serve!
- How to Fry Mantou
- Defrost frozen mantou buns.
- In oil over low to medium heat, deep fry the mantou buns. Continuously flip the mantou buns, until it is golden brown all over. This will be quick, about 1 to 2 minutes only!