Commonly used as the main ingredient of chilli crab, the unappealing name ‘mud crab’ may put a frown on some people’s faces; but trust us – this celebrated delicacy is something all visitors to Singapore need to discover. The first record of the dish dates back to1956, when Cher Yam Tian and her husband started selling the dish from a pushcart. The recipe became so successful that the couple started their own business. Thankfully, their legacy has been carried on by their son, who today owns and manages Roland Restaurant in the city.
Traditionally stir-fried in a sweet tomato and chilli sauce, this dish has gained worldwide recognition among celebrity chefs and home gourmands alike, inspiring multiple fresh takes on the original concept. There are now many places selling chilli crab across the city, so you needn’t go far to find it during your stay at the 4-star hotel in Singapore, PARKROYAL on Beach Road.
Sample the original Singapore recipe
While it can be interesting to go out and seek adaptations of Cher Yam Tian’s original recipe, visitors to Singapore should start their chilli crab journey at restaurants that have remained true to the chef’s vision. Look no further than Long Beach Seafood, a premium restaurant that has been serving up an array of oceanic delights for over 60 years. Its chilli crab dish comes sumptuously slathered in a deliciously tangy tomato sauce, with a side of deep-fried or steamed buns to help soak it all up. While you’re there, be sure to sample their famous original black pepper crab as well.
Image by Sara Goldsmith
Contrary to its name, chilli crab is generally not too spicy. But if you like your dishes with a little heat then you should stop by No Signboard Seafood, where guests are free to specify just how hot they want their meal. Expect your crab to come coated in a deliciously hearty sauce, comprised of prawn paste, garlic and an abundance of spices.
Peranakan and citrus infusions
Feeling a little more adventurous? Critics have raved about the modified chilli crab dish at Red House Seafood. This incarnation of Singapore’s favourite seafood is renowned for its juicy flesh and tangy chilli gravy. Reviewers have also detected Peranakan influences running through the dish, including hints of peanut, vinegar, red chillies and chilli padi. Diners can choose from a number of deviations, with the option to have their crab fried in black pepper, steamed with ginger and Chinese wine, or cooked in golden salted egg yolk.
Image by May Wong
Meanwhile, critically acclaimed restaurant Tung Lok has placed its own spin on the classic crab by introducing orange to the classic base mixture of tomato and chilli sauce. Blending the fresh taste of the sea with a citrus kick has resulted in several rave reviews from foodies and critics alike.
Rare and exciting chilli crab additions
Established by restaurateur Eldwin Chua, Seafood Paradise boasts what is arguably one of the most interesting take on chilli crab in Singapore, thanks to the addition of an aromatic paste which is derived from seeds of the Indonesian buah kelua fruit. It’s an exotic combination considering the fruit is poisonous, but thanks to the team’s careful preparation, these seeds add real flavour to the classic recipe alongside lemongrass, blue ginger and chilli padi.
Image by Freshly Diced
If you really want to experiment, pay a visit to Kim’s Place Seafood. This award-winning restaurant is renowned for its authentic Hokkien cuisine, which was first established by local ‘Hokkien Mee Master’ Tan Kue Kim. Over the years, his family business boomed and today the restaurant serves up traditional chilli crab, along with some celebrated twists on the classic, such as cheese crab, crab Bee Hoon soup, crab with salted egg and crunchy cereal crab.
Where is your favourite place in Singapore to sample chilli crab? Let us know in the comments below.