Singaporean Chili Crab: Singapore, Happy 55th Birthday

Over a week ago I hit the one year mark of my stay in Singapore.

To my surprise, I realized that twelve months had gone by so fast and I still hadn’t tried the Singaporean dish Chili Crab.

Well, that happened for a good reason.  Given that I can only tolerate spices to some extent, Chili Crab, the Singaporean national dish, somehow, mistakingly, summoned my wildest food fears.

If the ongoing pandemic has taught me something so it should be refraining from putting off any adventure including food ones. Today is always a better day to embrace new endeavours!

Last week I finally ate the Chili Crab by a Chef Derick Koh, a talented local Singaporean Chef who promised to mitigate the wild heat without compromising the dish authenticity.

The dish came out even better than I fathomed.

The dish base was a simmering vibrant tomato sauce spiked with a paste of chili with a handsome orange, sizeable, and motionless crab nesting happily in her new habitat and mingling with this luscious sauce.

The ingredients of the Singaporean Chili Crab dish

Although Singaporean cuisine exhibits culinary influences of its neighbors, Chili Crab remains the national signature dish that is a pure product of the Little Red Dot culinary genius.

According to sources, the origin of that dish dates back to 1956.  Out of a humble pushcart, Cher Yam Tian and her husband Lim Choo Ngee began selling stir-fried crabs mixed with bottled chili and tomato sauce. This was an improvised recipe and the rest is history.

The skyrocketing sales and popularity of the dish lead the couple to open their own restaurant. Palm Beach Seafood, along Upper East Coast Road where the dish even garnered more visibility and praise.

Typically, the dish is served with fried Mantou buns, which help soak up the luscious sauce to the last drop.

I will take the opportunity of posting this exotic recipe just one day past the National day of Singapore (Aug. 9th) to wish my gracious hosting country a Happy 55th National Day.

Singapore Chili Crab


Serves: 2 people


  • 1 whole cooked crab
  • 2 tbsp flavorless oil (such as peanut oil)
  • 3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1- inch piece of ginger, peeled, and grated 
  • 3 red chilies, 2 very finely chopped, and 1 sliced
  • 4 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 100 ml water
  • Handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 spring onions, sliced (including the white and green part)
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • one large egg

For the Matou Bread 

  • Store-bough mantou
  • Peanut oil for frying


  1. Prepping the crab.  Either you or the fishmonger must clean the crab by removing the claws, the main shell, then cut the body into four pieces, and crack the claws and the legs so the sauce can infuse the meat.
  2. Make the sauce. Heat the oil in a large wok and sizzle the garlic, ginger, and chopped chilies for 1 min or until fragrant. Add the tomato paste, soy, and 100ml water. Stir all the ingredients to combine. Crack the egg and added it to the sauce and stir fast enough until the egg is completely incorporated in the sauce. Throw in the crab, turn up the heat, and stir-fry for 3-5 mins or until the crab is piping hot and coated in the sauce. Toss in the chopped coriander, spring onions, and sliced chili.
  3. Serve the crab in the wok or transfer it to a serving dish, pour over the sauce from the pan.
  4. Garnish the dish with extra chopped coriander, red pepper, and green onions stalks.
  5. Serve the Chili crab pipping hot with Chinese fried bread (Mantou).

Bread Mantou

  1. In a deep frying pan, bring 1 1/2 cups of peanut oil to high heat. Fry the bread until it is puffy and golden. Remove the bread with a slotted spoon and let it rest on a kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil.

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