New Recipes

Chili Crab

Chili Crab
Chili Crab pictures (1 of 4)

(This chili crab recipe is from my archive but I have just made it today and updated with new photos, shot with Canon T1i. The new Canon 5D Mark II is reserved for my cookbook.)

My mother was a fantastic cook. Coming from a small fishing village in the state of Kedah, she made killer dishes with seafood, especially chili crab. With this post, I give my utmost tribute and applause to my late mother for her cooking skills and this very special family recipe.

Growing up, I would always look forward to visiting my mother’s hometown; as a matter of fact, I would ask my parents to take me there. My intentions were not completely pure, I must confess; other than being able to play on the beach and dig siput (a type of clams), my bigger motivation was that she would bring back the freshest, meatiest, and juiciest catch of green mud crabs from my uncle who was a fisherman. I was always brimming with excitement at the thought of devouring this dish.

Eating home-cooked chili crab was a celebration in my family—the preparation (imagine “capturing” those feisty crabs that “escaped” the nets and roamed freely in the kitchen!), the cooking, and of course, the eating. It was sheer fun; lots of fun.

While this dish is traditionally prepared with green mud crab in Malaysia, I used a 2-lb Dungeness crab. If you can’t find green mud crab or Dungeness crab in your area, you can always use another crab—stone crab or blue crab. If you are in New York City, call yourself lucky as you can just hop straight to Fatty Crab in the meat packing district and order this dish. Chef Zak Pelaccio’s serves a Malaysian-style chili crab at his restaurant.

Feast your eyes now with my pictures, but I hope you get a chance to try this chili crab recipe. Please take note that this chili crab recipe is not Singaporean-style chili crab which is made with a tomato-based sauce; this is adapted from my family’s chili crab recipe.

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60 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. Rasa Malaysia

    For Northern CA and SoCal readers, Ranch 99 has a special offer now–you can get Dungeness Crab for only $3.99 per pound.


  2. Passionate Eater

    I can tell that you learned all of your impressive cooking skills from a great teacher, and now I know its your mother! Thanks for the adorable tip about Ranch 99 too! You are so sweet!

  3. Pesky

    Wah so big lah your crab. We went crabbing yesterday in Mandurah, south of Perth, W. Australia. We didnt catch any crabs because we didnt have the right equipment. But another crabbers took pity on us and gave us 8 ekor of crab. The same type like the one you can get in Malaysia, ketam bunga or the blue crabs. Its yummy and sweet because it still swimming when we reach home.

  4. bsGlutton

    v must also thank yr mum for RM then.

    Crabs are truly delicious but getting a good deal in restaurants here in KL is about ‘luck’ can u believe it ? Then the arbitrary pricing ranging from RM15 to RM60 a kg(local mud crabs) ?

    Sometimes de crabs have litle meat, then again often the cooks fail to deliver, ask Boo she knows !

    so I guess its safer to just wait for RM…no matter how long it takes

  5. Rasa Malaysia

    PE – you are most welcomed.

    Pesky – I tried crabbing before, it was tough. After hours of “catching” and still no crabs while I see others catching buckets. Sigh! It was nice that you got some though…good for you. :)

    Simcooks – when are you going to make this, sans Prima Taste? :P

    BSG – I know what you mean. As much as I love our own green mud crabs (they are more “aromatic” when cooked), sometimes their looks are very deceiving, that is, they are filled with water and not flesh and you end up overpaying and not getting what you pay for. I have to say that I am really spoiled now that I have tried Dungeness crabs…they are so meaty and a lot easier to eat. Yep, I have to thank my late-grandmother, my mother and my aunt for inspiring me to cook and start RM to document our family recipes.

  6. Melting Wok

    RM, I’m on crab fever !! Just in case you guys wandering what “mud crabs” looks like, I’ve posted some pix. in my blog.

  7. Audrey Cooks

    Oow! I was just trying to stay away from crabs! I love those buggers but got to get my cholesteral level down first for CNY! I am salivating!!!! Drool!

    Looks like you had a wonderful time growing up!

  8. Wandering Chopsticks

    I grew up on Dungeness crabs so I love their meatiness. I do a slightly different version of this too, without the tamarind or lemongrass. But the sauce is still soooo good spooned over rice, or dipped with crusty French bread. Mmm.

  9. tigerfish

    求求你,放过我吧,you saw the dungee beg you (3rd pix)not to cook him, but you still did!LOL!
    I can imagine you lick those fingers dry, just like how I would! yummy!

  10. cheese with a spoon

    One of my favourites. My mum does a slightly different version, more Indian-style, I suppose, without the taucheo, but this looks very yummy too.

    I see you’ve sampled the delights at Fatty Crab in NY — the place is a real gem, isn’t it?

  11. maryeats

    Oh rasa, I couldn’t have asked for a better post. I’ve been missing asia, and just one click on your site has brought me back. Mmmmmmm. Thank you.

  12. Ming_the_Merciless

    Great pictures!! I love chilli crab but it can get messy eating those buggers.

    Being a NYer, I have been to “Fatty Crab” a couple of times. It is super expensive, esp. for the amount of food you get. Example, the kang kong belachan was $11 and it barely filled up a chinese rice bowl. The chilli crabs were $32.

    My favorite Malaysian restaurants in NYC are Nyonya (194 Grand Street) and Jaya (90 Baxter Street), all in Chinatown.

  13. malaykid

    crabs and siput, the best anugerah fr the sea! lol!
    bsg, since ur in msia, have u tried fatty crab in pj? they have mean ketam!

  14. Precious Pea

    Hi RM, first time visiting your blog and it’s really nice! Really salute to your cooking skills. Yummy looking..slurpz!

  15. Rasa Malaysia

    MW – I loved the claws of mud crabs…they are huge and juicy.

    Audrey – I am really blessed, my cholestoral is so healthy I don’t understand because I was fed on seafood since little. I think I am immuned. ;)

    Wandering Chopstix – would love to know your recipe…please cook it and share.

    Suanne – Do cook for Ben then. :)

    WMW – Gluttony sin I reckon. ;)

    Tiga – now you are making me guilty…hehe.

    Cheese with a spoon – are you going to share your mother’s recipe. The indian part sounds pretty intriguing to me.

    Mary Eats – welcome back to Asia, well, virtually. :)

    Ming – I have been to Nyonya but haven’t been to Jaya. Thanks for telling me.

    Malaykid – exactly I just looooove seafood. They are the best and siput and ketam rank very high in seafood list.

    SC – thanks. :)

    Precious Pea – thanks for visiting and do pop in often and leave me comments. :)

  16. Jackson

    yoo…thx for sharing this recipe! So suprise with yr chilli crab recipe bacause u didnt use any of the chilli powder! It must b fresh in taste! Must try it up one day.

  17. Mae

    Hiya! Although i’ve only just had chilli crab the other day, I’m still craving for it now. Your photos are so good in making the craving harder to resist!

    I have missed so much of your entries while i was away. I have my eyes on the plateful of stuffed tofu… ;)


  18. cheese with a spoon

    Aiyo Rasa Malaysia I don’t have a blog of my own lah and I don’t want to hijack yours by posting long-long comments — but anyway I’ll check with my mum for the exact recipe and try to post a *shorthand* version of it as a comment here?

    Re: Fatty Crab in NYC, yes, it’s a little pricey but I still think it’s worth the extra money because the food is of a better quality compared to Nyonya — in my experience Nyonya is kind of hit-or-miss. Sometimes the food is good, sometimes even simple things are really off. I haven’t been to Jaya, though. Must try.

  19. Flower

    About the Fatty crab in NY, I heard about the restaurant from Martha Stewart tv programme. She said the chilli crab tasted delish….

  20. Keropok Man

    wah…. lovely crabs. superdelicious looking!

    when you come to Singapore, try the Singapore style, with lots of kuah kuah. and you eat mantou with the sauce…

  21. Rasa Malaysia

    CP – Great, now go “catch” that big and juicy one at Ranch 99, on sale now. :)

    Jackson – no, I am not a big fan of chili powder, but I used 8 dried red chilies, but somehow the redness didn’t show through on the pictures…LOL! It was very spicy, I can guarantee you. ;)

    Mae – hey, welcome back to blogosphere. Yes, the stuffed tofu is super delish. Can you get fish paste / fish emulsion where you are?

    PabloPabla – hehe, thanks. :)

    Cheese with a Spoon – time to start a food blog! I will pimp your site if you do. Hehe.

    Flower – yes, all the reviews have been very positive. I am very happy for its success because this is how Malaysian food will be put on the culinary map! It’s time the world discover just how great Malaysian food is. :)

    Keropok Man – I actually prefer my crab without kuah kuah, because the kuah kuah is too messy for me to eat and I have to use all 10 fingers instead of just 4-6, LOL!!!! I will try out for sure. Thanks for telling me.

  22. Yuzu

    Dungeness for only $3.99/lb.? That’s cheap! I haven’t had crab in so long, and Dungeness is my favorite.

    Thanks for sharing your recipe. I might have to show it to my dad, because he loves cooking up crab. :)

  23. Vero

    This crab is awesome … I don’t think I’ll be able to find taucheo here in France though, do you think I could replace it by regular soy sauce?
    I’ve been wandering around in your blog, and I definitely lOOOve it! I’m hungry now…
    You are SO going straight away in my favorite links!! :-)

  24. Rasa Malaysia

    Yuzu – do share it with your dad and post the pictures on your site.

    Vero – welcome to RM and thanks for your kind comments. Also, thanks for adding me to your blogroll. Regarding taucheo, you can substitute it with oyster sauce and a little fish sauce…it will work just fine. :)

    FBB – The Dungeness crab is not like the green mud crab in Malaysia…it’s not as feisty so it’s easier to handle. ;)

  25. fatboybakes

    no no, i dont mean literally scary to handle coz of size or feistiness….i just meant, it sounds like a very hard medium to work with. dont you have to shell it, (as in take out the big shell) make sure its still alive prior to cooking and all that?

  26. cheese with a spoon

    Ahem, Rasa Malaysia, it’s very sweet of you to offer to pimp my blog without any knowledge whatsoever of my cooking skills! No lah actually I’m a decent cook but I don’t think I’ll be starting a blog anytime soon — I’m a mediocre photographer and I don’t think I’d be able to find the time to update so often. And I feel if you’re going to do it you should do it well, otherwise what’s the point, right? So I leave the blogging to the rajin ones like you.

    BUT here is my mum’s dry crab curry recipe — my mum, like most Malaysian home cooks, has probably never held a measuring cup, and her instructions are vague at best and confusing at worst, but I did what I could to decipher them (working also from my memory of the dish).

    First dry fry (no oil) all these items one by one (they brown at different rates and you want each one golden brown): big handful coriander seeds (biji ketumbar in Malay), about 1 tsp. cumin seeds, 1 tbsp. peppercorns, fresh grated coconut (from one small coconut). Then grind these until VERY SMOOTH with dried chilies to taste (soak in warm water first to make grinding easier. We like it very hot so we put 10-12), 5-6 shallots, and 5-6 cloves garlic. Best is to use a batu giling, otherwise mortar and pestle — food processor will not grind the coconut properly. You want it smooth, not grainy.

    Slice 1 big onion finely,

    Heat oil in a wok. When oil smokes, add 1 tbsp. mustard seeds and a small handful of curry leaves. When the mustard seeds stop sputtering, add the sliced big onion and fry until golden. Next add your ground masala paste, stir well, and fry 1 minute. Then add EITHER 2 medium tomatoes, chopped fine, or 1/2 cup tamarind juice (you know how to make it from the pulp, so I won’t explain), but not both — you only need one as a souring agent for this curry. Cook on medium heat for a few minutes.

    When the oil rises to the surface, add in the crabs, and stir to coat evenly with the paste. You can add in 2-3 tbsp. of coconut milk at this stage if you like (we don’t as we prefer it less lemak). Cover and simmer till crabs are done.

    Just before serving, stir in 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds (I forget what the Malay name for these is, but in Tamil it’s “vendyam”), dry roasted in a pan and ground w/ mortar and pestle. [Note: if you have not worked with these before, be very careful. You want them just browned a little bit; if you burn them they are disastrously bitter and they will spoil the whole dish.]

    Garnish with lots of fresh chopped coriander leaves. Serve with hot white rice.

    Enjoy! Thanks for all your wonderful recipes, RM.

  27. Shahrul

    thanks for the recipe. i miss fatty crab NYC. closest thing to a good crab dish in KL would be curry crab from nong n jimmy in ampang. thanks RM. Gotta try the recipe

  28. I am always a little nervous about handling crabs! but this recipe sounds soo good and yummy. I love the heat in chili crabs and the bread to soak up all the juice goodness!

  29. DailyChef

    I would love to try your version! I’ve only had the tomato-sauce based version from Singapore. This looks amazing!

  30. This looks absolutely wonderful. I love crab and I have had a similar sauce before, so I can just imagine what a great meal this was. I wish I could get good dungeness crab around here!

  31. Sunny

    I just made your chili crab recipe and it turned out just wonderfully!! It was my first attempt cooking crab, but your instructions were great! Thanks!!

  32. Caroline

    This looks amazing! I definitely want to try this recipe, but I have a quick question. What kind of dried red chiles do you use, and about how big are they? Thanks!

  33. sophie

    My husband and I love this recipe. I found your site several years ago, searching for Chilli crab recipe. I made your recipe for Valentines day about 3 yrs ago, since then it has become a family tradition. I can’t wait to try your recipe.

  34. LauraC

    Thanks so much for sharing this. Most scrumptious recipe. My family polished off everything – licked their plates clean!

  35. Gil

    Thank You for this wonder cuisine. I will definitely try this here in the Philippines. I will use locally grown crabs.

    Thank you.


  36. Ronnie Avansado Pallomina

    hi…! ms.rasa malaysia..thanks for sharing this wonderful and delicious recipe,i know my family love this,i love eating and cooking thats why i got this recipe,again thank you ang god bless u..

  37. A. R. Perry

    Made this tonight, and I have to say, it was amazing. First time ever cooking crab, and I took forever to kill the things and chop them up, but it was worth the effort. I used tamarind concentrate to make the tamarind juice, and it came out just as good.

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