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Crab with Tamarind and Chili (Cua Rang Me)

Crab with Tamarind and Chili (Cua Rang Me) Recipe


Crab with Tamarind and Chili (Cua Xào Me) Recipe

Serves 4 as part of a shared feast | Prep Time: 25 minutes | Cook Time: 10 minutes (in batches)


4 lbs (2 kg) fresh crabs (about 3 pcs), placed in freezer for 30 minutes
Oil, for frying
1 egg
1 tablespoon tamarind juice
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, halved lengthwise and cut into thin wedges
1 fresh small red chili, finely chopped
¼ cup (10-15 g) saw tooth herb, finely chopped
¼ cup (10-15 g) rice paddy herb, finely chopped
Steamed rice, to serve


1. To prepare the mud crab, scrub the outside with a brush under cold running water. Place the crab on its back on a chopping board, then lift up the flap/tail. Pull this away from the crab’s body, then turn the crab over and pull out the long grey ‘dead man’s fingers.’ Carefully scrape out the green-brown matter surrounding the liver (also called the ‘mustard’) and set aside; leave the liver in place but remove any other innards.

2. Cut the crab in half lengthwise through the head, then remove the claws and legs and cut the body into two pieces.

Cleaning Crab - Step 2

3. Using the flat side of a cleaver or a large heavy-bladed knife, gently crack the crab claws and legs so they cook more evenly and are easier to eat. Rinse them under cold running water.

Cleaning Crab - Step 3

4. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat. Working in batches, fry the crab pieces for 2-3 minutes, then remove and drain on paper towels.

5. Mix together the reserved ‘mustard,’ egg, tamarind juice, oyster sauce, sesame oil and sugar and set aside.

6. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over high heat in a clean wok, then add the chopped garlic and cook for 15-20 seconds. Add the onion and chili and cook for 1-2 minutes or until the onion is translucent.

7. Add the tamarind and egg mixture to the wok, then bring to a boil and simmer until slightly reduced and sticky. Add the crab pieces and herbs and toss for 5 minutes to coat with the sauce and heat through. Serve with steamed rice.

Cook’s Note:

You can use any type of crab: live mud crab (as pictured above), Dungeness crab, rock crab or blue crab.

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15 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. Vijitha Shyam via Facebook

    This dish sounds very similar to a South Indian crab dish I make. I love crabs and they are finger licking good.

  2. Stephan Wickham via Facebook

    Australian Mud Crab. Spiced salt water boiled or steamed and served ice chilled with butter and lemon.

  3. I love love love seafood too. Especially those of the shell variety. I was speaking to a friend recently and he remarked that it’s too much work to get that itty bitty piece of meat out. But for me, that’s 3/4 of the fun in having seafood, right? Getting your fingers and digging into it. We would mop up all the remaining sauce and juices with a slice of mantou or bread. Speaking of which, it’s been too long since I’ve had crab.

  4. I have never cooked crab myself and the only way to enjoy crab for me is the chili crab Singaporean style of Indonesian padang style. This crab dish is just so beautiful, so I will make an exception. :D

    I love Vietnamese cuisine and I think I will love this book!

  5. Caroline

    I have tried a few recipes from the cookbook including the crab recipe and they turned out really well. I agree that it’s one of those cookbooks with recipes that you want to eat and see yourself cooking for the family.

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