Malaysian-style Chili Crab

Malaysian-style Chili Crab recipe by

"What do you want to have for dinner?"

Mark was looking down into the orange glow of the toaster. "Can I have my breakfast first?"

That's always my first question of the day. I'm a spontaneous person...just not in meal planning. Which is why I struggle on visits to the morning wet markets in Penang, where my shopping list doesn't always match what's available.

But as much as I like crossing off each item from my list at the market, I love the little surprises. The sudden abundance of a fruit or vegetable that's in season that I fill my shopping bag with and bring back to the kitchen. And the occasional seafood catch that catches my eye, which it did last week when one stall had a table full of flower crabs.

how to cook flower crab?

Flower crabs - or blue crabs - are a small, semi hard-shell crab that are easy to clean, prepare, and cook with. And the perfect seafood to mix with chili.

Toss a few fresh chilis in a mortar (or food processor), along with some garlic cloves and a spoon of sweet salty bean paste, and pound away until your arm is tired and your shirt is mottled red. I promise the result will be a beautiful spice paste to drench the crabs in.

how to make chili paste for chili crab?

Once the paste is ready, cooking the crabs will take just 15 minutes.

how long to cook chili crab?

The reward for not always following a shopping list.

Malaysian-style Chili Crab recipe by

The feast begins. If you are as patient as Mark, you will find yourself sitting at the dining table cracking, picking and sucking every little sweet silken flesh out from the shells. Each bite coated with a lip-smacking, piquant sauce.

Malaysian-style Chili Crab Recipe by Season with Spice

5 flower crabs, cleaned and broken into 3-4 pieces each
1 onion, diced
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
3 tbsp tomato ketchup or tomato paste
3 tbsp sweet chili sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 /2 tsp dark soy sauce, optional (for richer color)
1/2 tbsp tapioca starch or corn starch
1 1/2 cups water
Dash of salt or to taste
Chopped spring onions for garnish

Chili spice paste (makes 4 tbsp)
6 fresh red chilies
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp bean paste

How to prepare the crabs:
1. Rinse and clean each crab with water.
2. Remove the top shell by pulling it off.
3. Turn the crab upside down, cut away the flap in the middle of the back.
4. Using a chopper knife or another strong kitchen tool (a stone pestle in my case), crack the body and claws open. The flower crabs have softer shells, so you can break the crab into half or into three-four parts quite easily.
5. After you break the crab into pieces, rinse it over again.
6. Now the crabs are ready to be cooked.

Cooking the crabs:
1. In large wok, add 2 to 3 tbsp oil. Let oil heat for a moment, then add the chili spice paste and grated ginger. Stir-fry on medium fire for a minute until fragrant.
2. Throw in crab pieces, onions, chili sauce, tomato paste, soy sauce and dark soy sauce.
3. Add 1 cup of water and stir everything together. Cover for 4 minutes.
4. Stir in tapioca starch. As the liquid dries out, add the last 1/2 cup water.
5. Turn the heat up, and cook for 5 minutes, bringing the sauce to a boil. The crabs are done when the shells turn a beautiful dark orange and the flesh turns opaque.
6. Serve the crabs on a platter and garnish with chopped spring onions.

If you have any leftover gravy, don’t throw it away. You can store it in the refrigerator and use it later as a flavoring for fried rice, as a topping on toast, or as a dipping sauce for Chinese steamed buns.