Southeast Asian Cuisine: Singapore Chilli Crab
As the months away from Asia continue to mount, I am continually reminded more and more of dishes that I miss. This morning, a friend here in Belize posted a picture of a crab soup and it instantly made me think — Singapore Chilli Crab.
That gooey, sticky, sweet, and spicy sauce that coats the entire crab. Mmmm…
Certainly not a first date food..heck, not even a three month relationship food in some instances, but still a must try if you are traveling in Singapore.
Singapore’s multi-cultural background has earned it the reputation of being one of the top food destinations in the world. The country has a range of culinary influences that include Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, and even the Middle East and some Western traditions. This translates into some substantial culinary offerings that are unrivaled in other parts of the world.
Considered a signature dish of Singapore, you can find chilli crab at Hawker Centers, local restaurants, and anywhere that serves traditional cuisine. Each spot will have a different take on the Singapore Chilli Crab, but essentially it’s a whole crab stir-fried with a fragrant sauce that resembles a tomato based gravy. It has garlic, chilli, ribbons of egg, and definitely packs a punch. You sop up the chilli goodness with fluffy white mantou (Chinese buns).
It is believed that the origin of chilli crab dates back to the 1950′s when Cher Yam Tian added bottled tomato and chilli sauces to the crab to spice up the regular dish. She eventually started selling it in a push cart, then moved to a food stall and 15 years later, opened Palm Beach Restaurant, which she sold in 1984. Some believe the more popular version of chilli crab seen today was created by Hooi Kok Wai of Dragon Phoenix restaurant — he modified Cher’s recipe to add eggs, vinegar, sambal, lemon juice, and tomato paste.
I’ve tried Singapore style chilli crab in several restaurants, in and out of Singapore, as well as the famed Newton Hawker Center. The best chilli crab easily was that from the hawker center — it was rich, tomatoey, slightly sweet with a manageable spice level.
In case you aren’t swayed by our recommendation, CNNGo named Singapore Chilli Crab as one of the World’s Top 50 Foods and Newton Hawker Center even declares it’s one of top 10 foods to try!
Where is your favorite spot for Singapore chilli crab?