Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Singapore Chili Crabs – King of the Crab Recipes?

Living in San Francisco, I’ve had more than my fair share of crab; prepared in more ways than I can remember, but I’ve never enjoyed it more than in this Singapore-style chili crabs recipe. Just be sure to have lots of napkins around. Lots of napkins.

Apparently, this is the national dish of Singapore, and you can’t throw a rock without hitting someone eating a plate of it. By the way, that’s not something you’d want to try. Just ask Michael P. Fay.

As far as I can tell, there’s no one standard way to make this. Besides the crab, and some kind of tomato product, I couldn’t find two recipes alike. What you see here is my take on this, but it does contain many of the most typical ingredients.

Most are easy to find, except maybe the tamarind paste, although any high-end grocery chain should stock some in their international foods section. If you can’t find it, maybe add a little extra pinch of sugar, plus the juice and zest of one lemon.

Obviously the most important ingredient is the crab, so find something really nice. The store up the street had a special on freshly steamed, Dungeness crab, so that’s what I used here, but any similar variety will work. 

If you can somehow get live crabs, that’s the ultimate choice, but I know that’s not realistic for most of you. The good news is, this is incredibly delicious either way. I really hope you give this Singapore-style chili crabs recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

Please Note: My friends in Singapore tell me they serve this with at least twice the amount of sauce, and a type of fried roll to soak up the goodness with. So, if you want to rock the chili crab like a Singaporean, then you should probably double the sauce ingredients!

Ingredients for four appetizer size portions:
2 whole cooked Dungeness crabs (about 2-3 lbs. each), cleaned and cracked
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced shallots, or other onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp minced fresh ginger root
1 tbsp minced serrano pepper

For the sauce:
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
2 tablespoon sambal (or any spicy ground chili sauce)
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp palm sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup chicken broth or water

Finish with:
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp sliced green onions (the green parts) or 1 tbsp sliced chives


Crumbs said...

Hey chef John!!! Love the recipe haha I'm from Singapore and have eaten this dish too many times to count! It's really very good and a signature dish here on our Island. I do hope you can come over here at least once in your life. I'm sure you have a lot of fans here in Singapore and we'll all love to meet you. Oh ya the egg that's in this dish is most of the time put in at the end so it's still a bit raw haha just saying!! Cheers!!

Chef John said...

Thank you! I should've mentioned something, but actually don't like the stringy egg effect. So I intentionally mixed into the sauce so it would still thicken it, but remain kind of silky.

Kirsten S said...

Hey Chef John, love your channel I've learned so much from you! I can't find the fish sauce you mentioned, my big chain supermarket doesn't carry it, and I have no idea what brand it is or any clue how to find it. Help!

Victoria said...

This is THE perfect dish to make for my mom's birthday next week, and her favorite things just happen to be crab, chilis, and South East Asian food (being Indonesian and all)! Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

I would love to try this with fresh crab! What changes to the recipe should i make if i do??

Chef John said...

None! It just takes a few minutes more to cook.

Dan and Hilary said...

Looks amazing, never heard of this one. Crab is by far my favorite shellfish, might have to give this one a go.

Funniest post in a while Chef John, you still got it!

Chef John said...

This is the one I like..

I buy at Whole Foods. Where do you live? If there are any Asian markets, they will have it, or just order a bottle online! Thanks!

Lucy L said...

I grew up in Singapore, and this looks quite close!! Gotta give it a try soon! Would challenge Chef John to add more Singapore dishes to the collection. ;)

Yardog59 said...

Unless they're King Crab legs, I'm not eating them. I have this thing about working too hard for my food. Sure looks amazing though.

Anonymous said...

Oh my!! Super excited/proud/glad/ whatever that you did a rexipe from singapore! I'm from singapore too, haha. The fried buns are called mantou, and they're the same as baos, but no filling, all bread. (You know like chinese pork buns? Those kinds) THey are CRAZY delicious ;u; the crispy skin and the fluffy sweet inside! They're really much more delicious than normal bread. I hoped you've tried them before!!

rancholyn said...

OMG...can't wait to try....thanks

Unknown said...

Hi chef! this recipe looks delicious, i want to try it, the thing is that i´ve never cooked crab before, how long am i supposed to boil it?

dsowerg said...

Thanks Chef John for sharing this recipe! I'm from Singapore. We usually have chili crab on special occasions because of the "market price" rate set by restaurants, which means having chili crab can get expensive if you're not careful! The fried dough you mention is simply mantou (chinese bun) that's been deep-fried. You may be able to find frozen mantou where you are, or get them from a dimsum shop! The other popular crab dish around here is black pepper crab. I hope you do come to Singapore one day to try our delicious food and meet all your fans!

Ben said...

Chef John, You said apart from a cocktail fork, you'll eat this with bear fingers. Can I just use my regular fingers? I find bear fingers actually make it harder to eat crab.

Unknown said...

Hi Chef John, love this recipe. I have been looking for a good one. Was wondering if we can use snow crab or any other type of crab instead of Dungeness?? Thanks.

worldwidestew said...

This was a complete surprise. I saw it yesterday and knew I'd love it and had to make it soon. This weekend is our anniversary,tonight actually. Hmm, how will I work it in? Of course, it'll be like my Lobster Scrambled Eggs (using Chef John's scrambled egg recipe + Lobster). I made it this morning and it was nothing like my Lobster Scrambled Egg recipe.

This Singapore Crab recipe has such a range of flavor that it took both of us by surprise. Once we had it on our plates, along with scramble eggs in a separate pile, it seemed like such an absurd notion to even consider it for breakfast. But, it worked! I've NEVER had a breakfast of crab. Add this wide spectrum of different flavors to it, and you're in a neighborhood a long way from where you anticipated. Initially, because it has such foreign - literally and figuratively - tastes, you find yourself kind of being slapped: "Hey, pay attention!" Then, we started really feeling the flavors. And, then, we're sopping it up with bread, making comments about how unexpectedly delicious it was. This is perfect for an evening meal. But, try not to be too surprised if you find your craving it for a special breakfast, too.

Unknown said...

Just looked at the video again so I can cook and realized you answered my question in the video. I need to pay closer attention =)

Chef John said...

No prob! Enjoy!

Eric said...

Hi chef John, I've made this a few times and decided to get a little creative by doubling up on the pound of meat by adding shrimp, lobster and halibut to it equaling to about 4 pounds total including the crab. So my logic was to double everything else. It ended up tasting a little gingerly, if that's really a word, any recommendations?

Eric said...

Hi chef John, I've made this a few times and decided to get a little creative by doubling up on the pound of meat by adding shrimp, lobster and halibut to it equaling to about 4 pounds total including the crab. So my logic was to double everything else. It ended up tasting a little gingerly, if that's really a word, any recommendations?

Warren D. said...

So word of advise, as you had mentioned in the blogpost, it was recommended to double up on the sauce. My wife and I did not enjoy it, it tasted overpowering. More importantly, DO NOT use imitation crab if your grocery store does not have any crab. We tried it with imitation crab and that more then anything made this disgusting. We will try it again next week when they get some crab in the store.