Malaysia and Singapore vie with each other for the best crab dishes, and often import live crabs from Sri Lanka, a fact they proudly advertise outside the restaurants. A chef dispatches the live crustaceans only when customers order the signature dish and are sitting waiting to be served. Chilli crab and black pepper crab are two famous dishes, with chilli crab perhaps the better known. This feast requires hands-on participation to reach the sweet flesh.
- 2 mud crabs or 4 blue swimmer crabs
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) peanut oil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
- 3 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
- 3 fresh red chillies, seeded and chopped
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) tomato sauce (ketchup)
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) chilli sauce
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 2 teaspoons salted black beans (optional)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 4 spring onions, finely chopped
Wash the crabs, scrubbing away any mossy patches on the shell. Put the point of a knife under the apron, which is on the underside of the crab, twist slightly and pull away the dark stomach portion. Discard. Remove the carapace (hard top shell) as well as the gills, the feathery grey tissue known as “dead men’s fingers”. Use a heavy chopper to cut the crab into halves or quarters. Crack the claws so the flesh is easier to get at.
Heat the oil in a wok until very hot. Fry the crab pieces, a few at a time, until they change colour, turning them in the oil. Remove each lot as they turn red. When all the crab pieces are fried, turn the heat to low and fry the ginger, garlic and chillies, stirring, until soft and golden. Add the sauces, water, sugar, salt and black beans. Return the crab pieces to the wok and let them simmer in the sauce for 5 minutes, with the lid on. Uncover and dribble in the beaten egg, toss in the spring onions, and cook without stirring until the egg sets. Serve with steamed rice.
A quick way to cook this dish is to buy cooked crabs and clean them as described. Then heat a jar of Reuben Solomon’s Singapore Chilli Crab Paste with an equal amount of water. Add the crab pieces and simmer for 3 minutes or until heated through. Lift the crabs onto a serving platter. Add the spring onions and slowly pour the beaten egg into the sauce. When it sets, spoon over the crab and serve.