It’s entirely possible to make your own Singapore Chili Crab at home. A survey of Chili Crab recipes yielded a recipe for it from a great source. Adam Liaw is a 40 year old Australian with a Malaysian-born Chinese father and an Singaporean born English mother. He grew up with his paternal grandfather to whom he gives credit for his interest in cooking. A practicing lawyer,in 2009 Liaw auditioned for the Australian version of Master Chef, Season 2. He became one of 24 finalists, then took home the title. It was the largest audience for a non-sporting event in Australia’s history. Liaw also anchored a 9 part series called “Destination Flavour Singapore”. I chose his recipe because it’s readily adaptable to an American kitchen with readily available ingredients in supermarkets. That is, except for the live Mud Crab. Scylla serrata is native to Asia, Africa and Australia and you can find then in Hawaii where they’re called Samoan Crabs. Fortunately, Dungeness Crab makes a fine substitute and you can even use one that’s already cooked thereby eliminating Adam Liaw’s first step, the cooking of the live crab.
The chef notes “We use tablespoons and cups in Australia: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.”
For the Crab
- 1 Large live Mud Crab Cleaned
- 1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
- 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Cup Crushed Tomatoes
- 1 Cup Fish Stock, Chicken Stock or Water
- 2 Tablespoons Finely grated Palm Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon White Vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
- 1 Teaspoon Cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp. cold Water
- 1 large Egg, lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
- 3 Scallions green ends only, cut into 1 inch lengths
- Red Bird Chili and Coriander Sprigs to serve
For the Base Paste
- 1 Medium Onion, sliced
- 4 Garlic Cloves
- 6 Long fresh red chilis, de-seeded
- 1 Tablespoon Ketchup
- 1 Teaspoon belacan (shrimp paste), optional
For the Crab
To dispatch the crab humanely before preparing, place it in the freezer for 1 hour to put it to sleep. Pull the top shell (carapace) away from the body and discard the gills but reserve any of the yellowish tomalley from the head and the top shell. Twist off the claws, then using a cleaver or large heavy knife, divide the body into four pieces with two legs on each piece.
For the Base Paste
Place all the ingredients in a blender and process until a smooth paste forms.
Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. When hot, fry the paste for 5 minutes or until fragrant and the oil separates from the solids. Add the crab (including the shell) and salt and toss until the crab starts to change colour. Add the passata, stock, sugar, vinegar and soy sauce and toss to coat. Stir in the crab tomalley. Cover the wok and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until just cooked through. Remove the crab pieces from the wok and place on a large platter.
Stirring continuously, slowly drizzle the cornflour mixture into the wok, followed by the beaten egg, then the butter and spring onions. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Pour the sauce over the crab, then scatter with coriander and chilli and serve immediately, with finger bowls and plenty of napkins.