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What is Chili Crab?

Chili crab is a local delicacy in Singapore.
Chili crab is prepared with a mix of spices that often include turmeric.
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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 July 2014
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The next time you happen to be in Malaysia or Singapore, be sure to have chili crab, a local delicacy, for at least one meal. While there is some controversy over whether this seafood dish originated in Singapore or Malaysia, it is a wonderful culinary treat to be enjoyed in either location. It is a very popular item at most seafood restaurants in these countries.

Chili crab is made with hard-shell crabs which are cooked in a thick tomato sauce that is spiced with chilies. The chili oil in the dish makes this a special treat for diners who enjoy spicy dishes. The sauce actually serves as a sort of gravy and is generally served in generous amounts so that the crabs are at least partially submerged. Because of the size of this entree, chili crab is almost always served in a family-style fashion, meaning that the dish is meant to be enjoyed by everyone at the table.

Because chili crab has become a very popular dish in Southeast Asia, it has been adapted to appeal to many different palates. In some places, it is served with spices other than the traditional chilies. For example, chili crab may be prepared with turmeric, galangal, ginger, or a combination of these spices.

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Although chili crab is traditionally a spicy dish, it is sometimes served as a sweet and sour dish. It is also possible to find this type of crab dish that is served with beaten eggs that are either mixed into the sauce or served with the crab. However, almost all variations on the theme of chili crab do include at least a touch of chilies or chili oil.

Because the sauce that the dish is served in is so delicious, it has become custom in some places to serve chili crab with mantou. Mantou are a kind of Chinese buns that are used to soak up the sauce. Some restaurants break with tradition and serve a sort of culinary fusion dish by serving the crab with slices of French bread instead of a side of mantou.

While Malaysia and Singapore may be the best places to have authentic chili crab, there are traditional restaurants outside of these countries where you can try the dish. Many large Western cities have at least one restaurant that serves such dishes from the region of Southeast Asia. In fact, some Western seafood restaurants have added this famous crab dish to their menus.

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