The chilli crab is one of Singapore’s national dishes and is listed at number 35 on the World’s 50 most delicious foods, by CNN Go in 2011.
It was first created in the 1950s by Madam Cher Yam Tian, a Singaporean chef along with her husband, Mr Lim Choon Ngee. In 1956, the husband and wife tag team began selling their stir-fried chilli crab dishes from a pushcard along the seaside. As business grew, they opened their very first fitting restaurant named Palm Beach at 514 Upper East Coast Road in 1962. They later sold parts of their shares in the family business to migrate to New Zealand.
What makes the dish so special is the sweet and savoury red chilli and tomato gravy that leaves you yearning for more. The stir-fried chilli crabs are first cleaned and chopped then deep fried in oil and dipped in the sensous semi-thick sauce that is enriched with fragrant light favourings of garlic, corn-flower to thicken the sauce and rice vineger. Most restaurants wil provide wet towels that will come in handy as most of the time the chilli crab is eaten with the hands.
The chilli crab goes best with mini toasted buns, usually fried and oily, also known here in Singapore as the ‘mantou’. The mantou is also referred to steamed bread or buns made from wheat flour, water and substances used in dough to create a soft yet fluffly finish. The mantou goes very well with the chilli crab dish as it absorbs the gravy beautifully. The way you eat it with your chilli crab is to tear it in half and dip into the sauce.
Here in Singapore, the chilli crab can be widely found in numerous seafood hawker stalls, food courts and kopitiams. Kindly refer to our list of seafood restaurants for our recommendations.