Hello and welcome! Today, we’ll be teaching you how to make our sweet chili crab recipe. It’s healthy -yup, you read that right- easy to make and finger-licking good. This mouth-watering low fodmap fish recipe comes with many accolades and a long-running feud.
Here are some things we are going to cover in today’s post along with the sweet chili crab recipe:
So, kick your feet up, grab a cup of tea, and sit back for one of our favorite gluten free crab recipes. Or press on the ‘jump to recipe’ button, that’s completely okay too.
What Is Chili Crab?
Before we get into the sweet chili crab recipe, let’s talk about what chili crab is. Chili crab is essentially crab that has been cooked in a sweet, savory, tangy and slightly spicy sauce made from chili and tomato sauce or ketchup. It is typically flavored by aromats like garlic, ginger, and onions.
Variations of the recipe can be found with either bottled sweet chili sauce, fresh chili’s, dried chili’s, and even sriracha (which we don’t recommend). The crab is cooked or steamed in this luscious sauce.
Eating chili crab is just as much of an experience as making it. Cooked in the shell, this dish is traditionally eaten with bare hands. This way, you get to savor every bit of that delicious sauce the crab is cooked in.
Most restaurants provide wet towels or a small bowl filled with water and limes to clean your fingers with after. Chili crab is often served with a side of steamed or fried mantou buns which are fondly used as the perfect vehicle to soak up the sauce.
Origins: Malaysian Or Singaporean?
Created by Cher Yam Tian in the 1960s, this low fodmap fish recipe comes with a lot of baggage and a long-standing feud.
The Singapore Tourism Board has dubbed this dish one of Singapore’s national dishes. Now, ask any Malaysian where this dish originates from and you’ll get a different answer. Probably Port Klang.
In 2011, CNN Go listed chili crab as one of the “world’s 50 most delicious foods” and Netflix’s TV Series, Street Food featured chili crab in Season 1 Episode 8 (this is not an ad). So let’s unpack this.
Here’s a fun fact: before Malaysia’s independence from the British, Singapore was a part of Malaysia. The Federation of Malaysia was made up of Malaya, Singapore, part of Borneo (Sabah and Sarawak) but in 1965, Singapore called it quits and separated from Malaysia.
And thus began the decades-long rivalry between the two nations. Everything from food, culture and language was fought for.
The title of best food destination in Southeast Asia is one that has been long coveted by both countries and nothing quite touches the nerves of either more than the other claiming a dish to be theirs. Chili crab falls under this category.
This red hot rivalry is re-ignited from time to time and the battle over who owns which dish has even been subject to the political scene. In 2009, then Malaysian tourism minister Ng Yen Yen said Hainanese chicken rice was “uniquely Malaysian” and Singapore has “hijacked” many Malaysian dishes including ‘Nasi Lemak’ and ‘Laksa’ to name a few.
It’s safe to say that the population of Malaysia was crabby when Singapore’s hawker stall culture was awarded with Unesco’s cultural heritage status -get it, crabby? Because this is a sweet chili crab recipe…
But ‘crabpy’ jokes -last one, promise- and puns aside, is this dish Malaysian or Singaporean? Who’s to say. The reality is, both countries’ cultures, societies, food, and language were formed as a result of settlers from Indonesia, influencers from colonizers, and migrant workers from China and India settling.
For now, let’s not name names and take this dish for what it is: a delicious dish that is the result of a mishmash of various cultures.
How To Make This Sweet Chili Crab Recipe At Home
Good news for anyone on a low fodmap diet and avoiding gluten because this recipe is both low fodmap and gluten free! Yippee! Nothing makes us happier than recipes that taste good and don’t disagree with our digestive tracts.
This sweet chili crab recipe is made up of three components:
- The crab
- The Sauce
Type Of Crab
Did you know that crab is a low fodmap fish or shellfish? There are plenty of options for crabs but this dish is traditionally made with mud crabs. We’ve made this recipe with mud crab before but find the mud crab to be heavier and stronger in flavor.
Aisha grew up eating this dish and has always used blue crab when it’s in season. The blue crab is smaller than the mud crab and sweeter in taste. It is slightly creamy and has a fluffier texture in comparison to the mud crab.
We got the fishmonger at the market to clean our crabs for us but you can use frozen crab if you prefer. What’s important is how you clean the crab. Nagi, from recepetineats has a great article on how to do this step by step.
If you’ve ever wondered how to make chilli paste or if you can make your own homemade chili paste, wonder no longer. You can make chili paste using either fresh or dried chilies.
Making chili paste from fresh chilies is an easier method. All you have to do is add your chilies to the blender and whiz them up. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, then remove the seeds.
The only difference between dried and fresh chilies is the presence of water. There’s a misconception that one is spicier than the other but that’s the case. If the chili was spicy before it was preserved, you can bet it will pack just as much as a punch dried.
To prepare chili paste with dried chilies, simply soak the dried peppers in hot water for 10-15 minutes in a bowl. Make sure to put a plate on top of the bowl to trap any heat.
Traditionally, the sauce for sweet chili crab recipes requires a chili paste with onion but we’re keeping this low fodmap and only use a ginger garlic chili paste in ours. To make the paste for the sauce, put your chili, ginger and garlic in the blender with some water. This paste is cooked down in neutral oil until it is fragrant and no longer raw, like this:
Once that is done, add the flavoring agents like salt, sugar, and tomato sauce, or ketchup. This will give the sauce a savory tanginess.
After the crab has had time to cook in the sauce, the liquid left behind is then enhanced with thickeners. This comes in the form of a cornstarch slurry and an egg.
A cornstarch slurry is made by adding water and cornstarch together. It’s commonly used to thicken sauces and gravies. The egg is whisked lightly and drizzled into the sauce while stirring with a spoon. You’re trying to achieve ribbons, so mix, mix, mix when you’re pouring in the egg mixture.
Tips For Cooking Crab To Perfection
To get perfectly cooked crab meat that is fluffy, juicy, and tender at the same time you need a:
- Good wok
- Cover or lid for the wok
Crabs cook fairly fast, anywhere from 7 to 10 minutes. That is the golden timeframe to shoot for. Smaller crabs cook faster and big crabs take a few minutes more. Our blue crabs ranged from medium to large.
Once you’ve cleaned and washed your crabs, make sure to give your crab claws a good whack before you cook them. By creating cracks in the shell, you’re allowing the sauce to seep through and flavor the crab meat.
You can use the back of your knife to do this or grab a pestle (from your mortar and pestle) And gently hit the shell once or twice. You want to see a small crack. So, hit it with enough force to create cracks but not hard enough that you shatter the shell and pierce the meat.
Cooking The Crab
After you’ve cooked down the paste and tossed the crab in the sauce, cover the wok with a lid, set a time for 10 minutes, and let the magic happen. Once the timer has gone off, take the crab out of the sauce and thicken the sauce with the cornstarch slurry, and drizzle in the egg.
You’ll know the crab is cooked when the shell color of the shell has transformed into a deep shade of red like this:
There you have it, dear reader. A sweet chili crab recipe that will bring the hawker stall experience to you. No longer will you have to travel for healthy Malaysian food -or healthy Singaporean food (we don’t want to start a war here).
You can make this dish in your own home and be transported to the streets of Southeast Asia with this sweet chili crab recipe. Try it for yourself and let us know what you think!
Sweet Chili Crab
This Malaysian-style sweet chili crab recipe is one of our favorites! Learn how to make this simple, quick, and finger-licking sweet chili crab recipe with ingredients you have in your fridge!
- 1kg blue crab
- 50g ginger
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 4 large chilies
- 2 tbsp water
- 3 tbsp neutral oil
- 1 tsp cornstarch + 2 tsp water (for cornstarch slurry)
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 tbsp ketchup or tomato sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 150 ml water
- 1 egg
Clean and wash crabs. Make sure to hit the claws with the back of your knife or a pestle to ensure the flavors seep into the shell.
Add ginger, garlic, and chili into the blender with 2 tbsp of water and mix until smooth.
In a wok, heat up 3 tbsp of oil and cook the spice paste until it is fragrant. This should take 3-5 minutes on medium-low heat.
When the paste has been cooked down, add in the oyster sauce, ketchup or tomato sauce, salt, sugar, and 150 ml water. Cook this mixture for a minute.
Add the crab and toss in the sauce. Turn the heat up slightly (around medium-high heat). Cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes.
Take the crab out of the pan and place it into a large bowl.
In the wok, add the cornstarch slurry and mix.
Pour or drizzle the egg mixture slowly into the wok while stirring vigorously to create ribbons of egg. Cook the sauce for an additional minute or two.
When that's done, toss the crab back into the wok mix through.
Garnish with parsley or coriander.
Serve the dish alongside bread or mantou buns to soak up all that sauce!
If you buy pre-shelled crab meat, the cooking time will vary.