Singapore Chili Crab

Singapore Chili Crab

Chili Crab is one of the signature dishes of Singapore and, indeed, although a Chinese influence seems apparent, it is claimed to have been invented in Singapore sometime during the middle of the last century. Basically, the dish is composed of unshelled crab cooked in a sweet, tomato-based chili sauce that is then thickened with egg. Despite the name, the chili component is secondary to the tangy, sweetness and most versions are usually quite mild. Accordingly, it is a dish that will appeal to just about anyone who loves the sweet, succulence of Crab.

Ingredient Notes

Ingredients for Singapore Chili Crab
Ingredients for Singapore Chili Crab

Singapore Chili Crab is generally made with fresh whole Crab which is first chopped into pieces and then briefly cooked before finishing with the sauce. You can certainly do that if you have access to good-sized, nice, fresh Crabs but, failing that, frozen, cooked crab pieces will do a pretty good job. Here, I am using King Crab legs.

This recipe calls for canned dice tomatoes which are then puréed, but you can save yourself a little time by using a canned tomato sauce instead. Just make sure it is not heavily seasoned with herbs or the like.

The Basic Method

The Sauce for Singapore Chili Crab
The Sauce for Singapore Chili Crab

To make the sauce, heat a little oil in a small saucepan and then add the ginger, garlic and chili paste. Cook for a minute or two until the aromas are give off and then add the tomatoes. If you are using canned tomatoes (whole or in pieces) rather than canned tomato sauce, use a hand blender to ‘whiz’ it smooth. Add the vinegar and sugar and then cook everything over medium heat until the sauce reduces and takes the consistency of bottled ketchup. Season it with salt and pepper to taste.

Stir-Frying Crab with Scallion
Stir-Frying Crab with Scallion

Slice the scallion greens into sections about three inches long and then cut any wide pieces in half-lengthwise. Chop the crab pieces into small, handy-sized pieces and then, if you like, smash them slightly so that they will be easier to eat and so that some of the sauce will penetrate to the meat. Next, heat a few tablespoons of oil in your wok and then add the crab, tossing and stirring until the chunks are heated through. Add the scallions and continue to stir until they wilt.

Finishing the Crab with the Sauce
Finishing the Crab with the Sauce

Finally, beat the eggs in a small bowl and then add the tomato sauce to the wok. When the sauce is bubbling, stir the crab to coat and then move the pieces up the sides of the wok leaving a pool of sauce at the bottom. Now add the beaten egg by pouring it slowly in a thin stream; first drizzling it lightly over the crab pieces and then into the sauce. Stir the sauce so that the egg gets incorporated and then push the crab pieces back down and stir them in as well. The idea here is that you get a creamy egg thickened sauce but also get ‘strings’ and flecks of cooked egg clinging to the pieces of crab. When all is hot, transfer to separate bowls and serve.

Your Recipe Card:

Singapore Chili Crab

Singapore Chili Crab is composed of unshelled crab cooked in an egg-thickened, tomato-based chili sauce that is tangy and sweet, and only mildly spicy.
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Chinese, Singapore
Keyword: Chili, Crab, Egg, Garlic, Sugar, Tomato, Vinegar
Author: John Thompson

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. Cooked Crab pieces
  • 2 Eggs
  • 3 Scallions green sections only
  • 1 540 ml Can of diced Tomatoes
  • 5 tbsp. Sugar
  • ¼ cup of White Vinegar
  • 3 – 4 tbsp. red Chili Paste
  • 1 tbsp. minced Garlic
  • 1 tbsp. minced Ginger
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  • Heat a little oil in a small saucepan and then briefly fry the ginger, garlic and chili paste.
  • Add the tomatoes, cook for a few minutes, then purée.
  • Add the vinegar and sugar and continue cooking the sauce down until it is the consistency of a ketchup.
  • Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Slice the scallion greens into sections about three inches long and then cut any wide pieces in half-lengthwise.
  • Chop the crab pieces into small, easy to handle, sized pieces.
  • Beat the eggs and add the sauce to the crab. When the sauce is bubbling, begin to drizzle in the egg in a thin stream, stirring some into the sauce to thicken, and allowing some to set and cling to the crab pieces.
  • Transfer the contents of the pan to an appropriate dish, or dishes, and serve hot.

2 Comments

  1. One of my favourite local dishes, nothing beats mopping up the leftover sauce with a fried mantou. Looks good!

Comments, questions or suggestions most welcome!