Cher Yam Tian invented chili crab in Singapore in the 1950s. Her family built their first restaurant, Palm Beach Seafood, after she tested out her crab recipes on her family and friends. Since then, the dish has become a mainstay on menus throughout all of Singapore, from upscale restaurants to hawker districts.
We all know that eating chili crab out can be pricey in Singapore, and you can never have enough crab for a dinner (with the exception of the amazing Chinese buffets I used to visit back in upstate New York, where I would stuff my face with snow crab legs). The best option is to prepare crab at home. We use Sri Lankan mud crabs in Singapore, but any other crab, even soft-shell, should work. The deep seafood taste that results from cooking the crab directly in the sauce is unrivaled to any I’ve eaten in a restaurant and can be customized when you make this meal at home.
1 tablespoon (8g) cornstarch
2 tablespoons (30g) water
7 tablespoons (104ml) peanut oil
2 to 3 whole shallots, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 1/2-inch knob ginger, grated (about 2 tablespoons)
6 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
4 Thai chiles, minced
2 whole live Mud or Dungeness crabs (about 1 pound each), prepared (see notes)
2 cups (500ml) homemade or store-bought low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup (66g) tomato paste
1/2 cup (125ml) hot-sweet chili sauce (see notes)
Salt, to taste
Sugar, to taste
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Rice or steamed buns to serve on side
In small bowl, whisk cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water; set aside. In large wok with lid (or Dutch oven), heat oil over medium heat until shimmering. Stir in shallots, ginger, garlic, and chiles. Cook and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add crab pieces and broth. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Cover loosely and gently boil (decrease heat if necessary), until crab has turned red and is nearly cooked through, about 6 minutes.
Remove cover and stir in tomato paste and chili sauce. Simmer 1 minute and season to taste with salt, sugar, or chili sauce. Stir in cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil to thicken.
Remove from heat and whisk in egg. Stir in green onions. Ladle into serving dish, sprinkle with cilantro and serve.