Recipe: Mum’s Singapore Chilli Crabs

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We’re still enjoying the festivities of the 15 days of Lunar New Year, and crabs isn’t a dish we had at the dinner table in our family because crabs in Cantonese “hai” is a homonym for slippery and we definitely don’t want a slippery year ahead!

Here’s mum’s recipe for Chilli crabs, I am still trying variations as I can’t find candlenut in Macau, but I am sure plenty of candlenuts are sitting somewhere in a wet market stall in Macau that I have missed, so I am still on the search for it.

The hardest part about making this dish was to kill the crabs, and fortunately for me, they passed away in the fridge before I had to butcher them. The wet market auntie offered to do it for me, but the thing is if you ¬†have them already butchered you’d have to cook them on the same day, otherwise it goes bad.


I have a group of my core team friends on a whatsapp where we support each other and listen to each other’s lamentations as we’re all living all over the world across timezones. We had a little debate about killing crabs and the anatomy- some said the triangular section was the anus and well, I quite firmly believed it was the heart- it’s where my mum would hammer a chopstick in to kill the crab. Then she would rip off the shell and then break the crustacean into two.

I used to help with cleaning out the fresh foods before portioning them for the fridge and freezer – and it was an opportunity for me to play make belief surgeon as a kid. I always played with the funny brush texture of the grills and my mum used to yell at me because it was the filthiest part of the crab and I’ll always remember the comparison she made – it’s like the aircon vent, and those gills function as that to filter the crab’s lungs.



Serves 5-6 persons


3 large mud crabs

2 candlenuts

6 cloves of garlic

4 shallots

1 medium piece of galanggal

1 medium piece of ginger

4-6 chilli padi (or adjust depending on your threshold for spicy food)

handful sprigs of coriander

2 bottles of tomato ketchup (or 1 bottle of chilli sauce)

400ml of water

1 tablespoon of cornstarch (optional to thicken the sauce)

oil or butter

1 lime

2 eggs


  1. Blend the candlenuts, garlic, shallots and galanggal, ginger, chillies and lime juice into a paste.

2. Heat the oil and throw in the paste, stir fry until fragrant

3. throw in the crabs

4. Add in all the bottled ketchup and chilli sauce, add water

5. beat the two eggs and add into the sauce

6. garnish with coriander

Ready to serve! As the ketchup and chilli sauce already have added sugar, you don’t have to add extra sugar.


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