In Australia, we can definitely find the freshest seafoods, however, somehow, the best seafood dishes we have ever had are in Singapore! One of our favourites of all time is the famous Singapore chilli crab. We have been looking forward to make this for so long!
For this recipe, we used the Queensland mud crab. This dish is only mildly hot, if you prefer spicier, add more chillies! or even some Thai chillies.
Firstly…how to pick the best live mud crab to cook?
– Find the heaviest, liveliest, odourless and most energetic one with all its parts. Poke it/grab the mud crab from behind if you must. Be careful with its claws!
– Colour and texture of the crab should be dull (not shiny) with no pattern/mottle. Check the right crushing claw teeth, it should be blunt and worn.
– Firmly press on the centre and the sides of the top head shell (carapace) and underside of the body (sternum). It should be hard and not deformed.
– The sternum is pale-yellow in colour. We noticed the ones with a yellowish sternum tasted sweeter and had more flesh compared to the blue-ish ones.
Pop the crabs in the refrigerator for 1 hour (or 10 minutes in the freezer). They should be in a sleepy state for easier handling later. In the meantime prepare the rest of the ingredients.
When it comes to the actual killing of the crab, get ready for a little mess! WARNING! Some gruesome pictures!
On slow running water, wash the abdominal flap to remove the yucky stuff. Secure the crab on its carapace, lift up its flap and on the location of the flaps tip, in one quick motion, firmly drive a sharp knife through its brain. This should kill the crab instantly and humanely. Alternatively, you can drive a knife through its eyes. If black liquid is pouring out, tilt the crab on the sink and just drain it on slow running water.
Carefully remove securing rope/ties, place the claws away from you. It may still twitch and/or pinch you even if its dead. Just reflexes! To remove the carapace, insert your thumbs behind crab and gradually open the shell from the back side. Place the carapace aside, remove the gills (dead man’s fingers) and other organs. There should be a soft yellow green substance in the cavities, the tomalley, you may save them (they give a nice creamy texture with an intense crab flavour). Half the crab body, then remove the claws with a cleaver. Wash pieces thoroughly! Use a brush (we used a toothbrush) and thoroughly scrub the parts on slow running water. Snip the prickling parts with a sharp scissors and remove mouth and other hard white ligaments/cartilages from the carapace.
Once that is done, chop the legs to equal parts and smash the legs and claws’ shells (place a paper towel or cloth over it) for easier removal of shells when eating.
Note that the live crabs should ideally be cooked within 30 minutes after they have been killed. So once you have prepared the pieces, quickly blend chillies, ginger, shallots and garlic together in food processor and put aside. Next, flash fry the crab pieces. Pour deep frying oil into saucepan, heat it up to around 180°C, and fry pieces (in batches if saucepan is small) until they turn bright red. This should take no longer than a minute. Leave aside to drain.
Time for the actual cooking of the dish! Season wok and add about 4 tablespoons of oil. You may reuse the frying oil. At low to medium heat, fry the blended mixture of chillies, ginger, shallots and garlic until fragrant. Add salted soy bean paste, ketchup, tomato puree, sugar and salt, followed by chicken stock. Stir as you go. Taste and season to your liking at this stage. When it begins to simmer, carefully add in fried crab pieces. Quickly stir to coat pieces with sauce. Cover wok with lid and let it simmer for 15 minutes. You then remove crab pieces from sauce and set them aside. Pour in corn starch and water mixture and stir, followed by quickly pouring in the beaten eggs. Lightly swirl or stir as you pour in the eggs. When mixture thickens, turn heat off.
You may pour crab pieces back into wok and toss them altogether with the sauce before serving on a dish OR simply pour the sauce over crab pieces that are already nicely plated on a serving dish.
Finally, you may garnish with diced up spring onions and/or coriander and serve the dish with some hot steamed or fried mantous/buns. YUMMY!! Dig in with your fingers!!