Monday 5 November 2012
Crawl Up! Crawl Up! Singapore Chilli Crab Is In Da House
Singapore Chilli Crab - one of the true classic seafood dish that has come represent the best of Singapore cuisine and quite rightly so. This saucy beauty of a dish make use of the freshness of the crab which is at it's sweetest and coat it with a hot and spicy gooey sauce that just enticed you into mopping it all up with the accompanying crusty bread or in some case, crispy fried mantou (yeast buns).
I remember those days when I used to savour this dish in the famous and long standing Long Beach seafood Restaurant in East Coast park, Singapore where all the live seafood would be exhibited in full view in the rows of fish tanks surrounding the restaurant. Obviously the crabs will be the main attractions of many who visits and I was one of them.
There are many variations to create this wonderful dish and this is one of mine. I like to dredge the crab in flour and then deep fried them first as I think it helps the sticky sauce to cling well onto crustaceans when cooked, all the more better as the sauce is what make this crab dish so incredibly irresistible.
For this dish, the crabs should always be bought live if at all possible though this I find is much easier if you pop down to a good fishmonger or Chinatown. The best variety to get is the Chinese freshwater crabs which have distinctive hairy claws and autumn is the best time to look out for these in most Chinese supermarket as this is when they are at their juiciest and finest.
Before cooking, the crab must be prepared. And this is the daunting bit for some so for the squeamish, perhaps tackle this with a pair of reliable extra-long tongs, as making this with those prepared and cooked crabs from supermarket is sacrilegious and is consider as a criminal offence in Singapore. (OK, so the latter was a complete fabrication but trust me, you will want live and kicking crabs for this)
In Singapore, the most common way to kill a crab is to insert a chopstick deep inside its mouth opening. But I tend to put it into a freezer first for about 20-25 minutes to induce it into a sweet gently coma before laying it on its back on a chopping board, lift up the flab from the underside belly and inserting a knife straight through the dent in one go. Next pry off the top shell. Remove the back and the spongey innards and dead men's fingers. Remove the claws from the main body and make a few cracks with the back of your knife (or in my case, the pestle). This will help with the cooking and eating later. Cut the remaining body into 2 pieces, leaving the leg attached. Wash and pat dry completely and now you are ready to cook up a perfect crab heaven, believe me, this is good!
2 large or 3 medium live crabs, prepared and cut into pieces as described above
sunflower oil for deep-frying
100g plain flour
1 large onion, cut into quarters
100ml tomato ketchup
40ml good quality shop-bought chilli sauce
1tbsp tamarind purée
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp corn flour, mixed with 3 tbsp water
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
1 spring onion, cut into thin stops, for garnish
1 large red chilli, deseeded and cut into thin strips, for garnish
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the ginger spice paste:
6 large fresh red chillies
4 large dried chillies, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes
8 shallots, skinned and chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed
2.5 cm length fresh ginger, skinned and finely chopped
Pound all the ingredients for the ginger spice paste in a mortar and pestle inot a smooth paste or alternatively, blitz in a food processor.
Heat some oil in a wok until very hot. Lightly coat the crab pieces in flour and deep-fry them for 2-3 minutes, few pieces at a time. Remove and drain on some kitchen paper.
Pour away the frying oil. Clean and return the wok to the heat. Add 3 tablespoon of oil and heat over medium heat until smoking. Add the ginger spice paste and stir-fry for 3 minutes, until fragrant. Add the onions and cook for another minutes before adding the crab pieces. Turn frequently to coat the crab in the aromatic spice paste. Add the ketchup, chilli sauce, tamarind, water, sugar and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the crab are cooked through.
Add the corn flour mixture and stir to mix well, the sauce should starts to thicken. Slowly stir in the beaten eggs, give a final stir. Turn off the heat when the eggs start to set. You should have a thick, creamy, curdled sauce, fret not, this is how it is meant to be.
Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with the spring onion and chilli and serve hot with lots of crusty baguette or in true Singapore style - fried mantou.