I was in Singapore recently, very, very briefly_ as in on a stopover en route to Manila. Having five hours to spare, I was hoping that my daughter and I could join the free two hour city tour. Unfortunately, we landed there in the early hours and the first available tour started at 9 a.m. and would finish 10 minutes before we were due to board our connecting flight. So that was that, it was just the airport we got to see.
I haven't been to Singapore in so many years yet I still have visions of it clearly etched in my mind. Apart from the beauty and cleanliness of this city, it is the food that I fondly remember. Be it in the posh restaurants or in the street side cafes, the food was spectacular.
What more can be as iconic of Singapore food than chilli crab. Though it was too spicy for me then, I still relished every mouthful. Despite the hot weather, there was nothing else I would rather eat.
I found some live crabs at the market today and was raring to make them into chilli crab. It is just so quick to make yet gives such immense pleasure when you eat it. Part of the pleasure of eating crabs is getting your hands dirty as you pick tasty morsels off the shell. Other people might disagree but eating crab meat off the shell, be it dressed crab in a half shell or a mound of crab in salad is just not the same. Make sure you cook rice (plenty of it) before you start making this dish because you won't be able to wait to dig in.
2 live crabs
3 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped (about 1 tbsp.)
1 knob of ginger, roughly chopped (about 1 tbsp.)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 red chilli, roughly chopped
2 tsps. anchovy paste (or 3 anchovy fillets)
1/3 c. tomato ketchup
3 tbsps. brown sugar
2 tbsps. light soy sauce
1 1/4 c. water
1 tsp. chilli oil (optional)
3 bunches of spring onions, cut into 1" lengths, white and green parts separated
coriander leaves for garnish
Put the crabs in a plastic bag and put in the freezer for a few minutes to put them to sleep (about 15 minutes). With a sharp cleaver, cut them in half. Take the shell off from each half and remove the dead man's fingers from the body, then again cut each in half. You will have 8 pieces of the body and 4 pieces of the shell. Crack the claws with the back of a cleaver so that it is easier to take them out of the shell later on.
Put the garlic, ginger, onion and chilli in a food processor and grind into a paste. Set aside.
Heat about a cup of oil in a wok. When hot, fry the crab, a few pieces at a time, for a few minutes until they change colour and the juices that come out becomes white. Transfer to a colander to drain the excess oil.
Remove most of the oil from the wok save for about 3 tbsps. Add the paste and the anchovy paste or fillets and fry for about three minutes while constantly stirring until fragrant and thick. Add the ketchup, sugar, soy sauce, chilli oil and water. Bring to a boil.
Return the crabs to the pan, add the white parts of the spring onions and stir. Simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Add the green parts of the spring onions then switch the heat off. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve hot.
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