Singapore Chilli Crab with Fried Mantou

Singapore Chilli Crab with Fried Mantou

Hello Everyone! As I said in my very first post for the year, I wanted to see how many of you will be able to guess the theme for this year. As of now, you probably have enough information for an idea, and to be honest, it’ll only get clearer (maybe) in April. So for now, I’ll keep you guys guessing!

Chilli Crab is a Southeast Asian seafood dish, popularised and promoted in Singapore as its national dish. The dish dates back to 1956 where a husband and wife started selling an improvised recipe of stir-fried crabs mixed with bottled chilli and tomato sauce from a pushcart.

Despite its name, it is actually not a very spicy dish at all. It is a dish where mud crabs, or any other species of crab, are stir-fried in a semi-thick, sweet and savoury tomato and chilli based sauce. The sauce is described as sensuous, sweet yet savoury, and fluffy in texture.

Singapore Chilli Crab with Fried Mantou

When it comes to eating Chilli Crab, forget about cutlery. It is traditionally eaten with bare hands as a means to savour the juicy crab meat. Restaurants that serve this each often provide wet towels or a small washing bowl with lime for diners to clean their hands after their meal. Additionally, don’t be shy. Ask for a bib. Or wear a bib when eating at home. Seriously. It will keep your clothes free from stains and sauce drops.

Chilli Crab is commonly ordered with a side dish of plain or fried rice, vegetables, or other seafood dishes such as fish. Regardless of those, there’s one thing that can’t be left out when you order Chilli Crab that contrasts so deliciously with the sauce: Bright Golden Pillows. Or simply, fried mantou buns. These crispy and greasy little nuggets are used to soak up the sauce from the Chilli Crab. They are sweet, soft, and sinful.

Before we dive into tonight’s recipe, check out the original recipe over on Serious Eats by Yvonne Ruperti.

Singapore Chilli Crab Ingredients



  • 2 whole Mud or Dungeness Crabs (about 600g – 800g in weight for each)*
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 red bird’s eye chillies, minced
  • 1 half-inch knob ginger, grated
  • 1 large free-range egg, beaten
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • 1 stalk green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 shrimp bouillon cube
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup hot-sweet chilli sauce
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch, mixed with 2 tbsp of water to make a slurry
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To serve on the side

  • Steamed rice
  • Fried mantou (Chinese Buns)**

* Check out this YouTube video by Sydney Fish Market on how to choose, clean, and prepare your crabs; best to keep the fat and creamy part inside the top shell for the extra crab flavour that it’ll lend to the dish.
** You can make your own mantou buns by following this recipe over on China Sichuan Food. Alternatively, you may also find them at your local grocer or supermarket, if available.

Frozen Mantou Buns


  1. In a large wok or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium until shimmering. Add in the garlic, onion, ginger, and chillies. Cook until lightly browned and fragrant for about a minute.
  2. Add the crab pieces, water, and shrimp bouillon cube. Increase the heat to medium-high, cover loosely, and bring to a gentle boil. Decrease the heat if necessary. Cook for about 6 minutes, until the crab has turned red and is nearly cooked through.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste and chilli sauce. Simmer for about a minute and then season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and bring back to a boil for the sauce to thicken.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in beaten egg. Transfer to a serving dish and top with sliced green onions and fresh chillies.
  5. Serve with steamed rice and/or fried mantou buns. Take care when eating the sauce – it may have bits of shell in it from the crab. Enjoy!

Singapore Chilli Crab with Fried Mantou


– Ally xx


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