Chili Crab

June 3, 2022


In Malaysia and Singapore, this meal is a staple. This is a simple recipe for chili crab that can be made at home by anyone. A traditional chili crab recipe from my family.

My mum was an incredible cook. A native of a fishing hamlet in Kedah, she was renowned for her seafood dishes, particularly chili crab.

This essay is a tribute to my late mother’s cooking skills and this extremely special family recipe that she passed down to me.

A trip to my mother’s homeland was one of the most anticipated events in her life; in fact, she would often request that my parents accompany her.

However, I must admit that my motivations were not entirely pure; aside from being able to enjoy the beach and dig siput (a sort of clam), my main goal was to have her bring back my uncle’s best harvest of green mud crabs, which he was a fisherman.

Whenever I contemplated savoring this dish, I was filled with anticipation.

Having home-cooked chili crab was a great occasion for my family from start to finish. It was a ton of fun, to say the least.

In Malaysia, this meal is normally made with green mud crab, but I substituted a 2-pound Dungeness crab for my healthier take on the recipe.

This chili crab recipe is a must-try, so feast your eyes on my photos while you’re at it. Disclaimer that this is not a Singaporean-style chili crab recipe, which uses a tomato-based sauce; rather, it is an adaptation of a chili crab recipe from my family’s collection.

Each serving of this recipe contains 131 calories.


  • 1 Dungeness crab
  • 1 chopped coriander sprig
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of tamarind juice
  • salt
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • 1/4 cup of water


  • 8 dried red and seeded chilies
  • 1 tablespoon of taucheo or soy bean paste
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 inch fresh ginger


  • 5 seeds of tamarind
  • water


  1. To prepare the crab, remove the shell and devein it. Set aside the greens and juices inside the shell.
  2. Pound the spice paste or a food processor to crush it. It’s important to grind or blend the spice paste to a fine consistency.
  3. For 15 minutes, soak the tamarind seeds in warm water. Get rid of the seeds and extract the juice.
  4. Add some cooking oil to your wok and heat it up.
  5. When fragrant and spicy, stir cook the spice paste.
  6. Stir in the crab and 1/4 cup water just before serving. For a total of three minutes, place a lid on the wok.
  7. Stir in the greens and juices from the shell and mix thoroughly to incorporate.
  8. Add sugar, tamarind juice, and a little salt to taste and continue stirring for about 2 minutes or until all crab pieces turn red.
  9. Sliced scallions can be sprinkled on top of the finished dish.
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