WHERE TO TRY SINGAPORE SIGNATURE DISH CHILLI CRAB
Chilli Crab has become synonymous with Singaporean cuisine. It consists of tender, juicy crab meat cooked in a spicy tomato-chili sauce and served with rice or fluffy buns on the side. Both locals and visitors adore the dish, which has a long history. We'll explore the history of chilli crab, the several ways to enjoy it, the best places to eat it in Singapore, and interesting trivia about this well-known delicacy in this guide!
History and Traditions
The origins of chilli crab can be traced back to the 1950s in Singapore. A local street vendor actually created this dish when he was searching for a way to spice up his crab dishes, which led to him coming up with the brilliant idea of using tomato sauce and chillies to make a wonderful and spicy sauce for his crab meals! Chilli crab is a combination of different cultural influences, including Chinese, Malay, and Indian. The use of chillies and spices pays homage to the region's vibrant Peranakan culture, while the tomato-based sauce has roots in Chinese cookery. The dish exemplifies Singapore's melting pot of ethnicities and cuisines.
How is this dish best enjoyed?
Traditionally, chilli crab is best enjoyed with mantou (Chinese bun), a steamed or fried bun. Each bun is fluffy, soaking up the spicy sauce, giving you a harmonious blend of savoury, spicy and sweet. However, many people enjoy the dish even on its own without the buns, as the sauce is so flavourful that it doesn't need any accompaniments.Aside from what the dish is enjoyed with, the experience can only be completed when you use your hands to crack open the crab legs, remove the meat, and dip it into the sauce before eating. It's important to remember that eating chilli crab can get messy, so it's advised to bring wet wipes or wear an apron. Furthermore, make sure to request additional napkins for cleaning.
Since 1982, Long Beach Seafood has been serving premium live seafood and was one of the few restaurants that served luxurious local cuisines. Best known for the creation of the original Black Pepper Crab, Long Beach is a household name for live seafood in Singapore. The restaurant prides itself on using fresh, live crabs and a unique sauce that is made from a secret family recipe. At Long Beach Seafood, you will be able to enjoy a casual and lively dining experience that comes with a view of the ships. With 4 different kinds of crabs to choose from, you will be able to enjoy it in your chosen cooking method! However, the famous chilli crab can only be enjoyed if you choose the Air Flown Live Dungeness Crab or the Live XL Mud Crab. Aside from their Chilli Crab and Black Pepper Crab, their wide assortment of premium live seafood, including lobsters, clams, and groupers, is a must try as well!
Red House Seafood is a seafood institution that has been serving up chilli crab since the 1970s. It is one of the to-go to chilli crab restaurant in Singapore. Specialising in Singapore Nanyang-style seafood, the restaurant uses a traditional recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation and has become a favourite among locals. All their seafood is sourced and maintained responsibly, shipped in optimal conditions, and delivered to your table as a high-quality seafood dish. Their specialties include the Signature Chilli Crab, Lobster in Signature Creamy Custard Sauce, Braised Fish Meat Noodles and Crab Meat Pao Fan! Red House Seafood offers 2 kinds of live crabs, Sri Lankan Mud Crab with its moist, firm meat and the Alaskan King Crab with its sweet, succulent meat. If you would like to try a different crab dish, the restaurant offers 11 different kinds of cooking styles for its crabs, including the famous chilli crab!
Having won several awards including the Epicurean Star Award for Best Buffet Restaurant in 2021, Tung Lok Seafood is a chain of seafood restaurants that offers a range of Singapore-style seafood dishes, including chilli crab. The restaurant is known for using fresh, live seafood, with their Black Pepper Crab and Chilli Crab being the favourites. The Chilli Crab includes the use of orange juice and tomato sauce, creating a delectable gravy that goes perfectly with the mantou. This special sauce has a perfect balance of sweet, spicy, and savoury flavours. There are 3 different kinds of live crabs available, namely their Signature Crab, Canadian Dungeness Crab and the Alaskan King Crab (charged by market price).
Seafood Paradise is the first restaurant opened by the Paradise Group and is a casual dining restaurant that offers a variety of seafood dishes, including chilli crab. The restaurant is known for its generous portions and affordable prices, making it a popular option for families and large groups. The Popular Singapore Style Chilli Crab is available in 4 different options of crab: Dungeness Crab, Mud Crab, Scotland Snow Crab and Alaskan King Crab. To go along with the chilli crab are 2 mantou options: deep-fried ($0.90, min 2 pc) and steamed ($0.90, min 2 pc). The gravy though spicy, is also slightly sweet and is definitely better enjoyed when scooped with the fried crispy mantou. Other must-try dishes include their Signature Creamy Butter Crab topped with Coconut Crumbs, Hot Plate Tofu with Preserved ‘Cai Xin’, Baked Pork belly Ribs with Honey Pepper Sauce and Deep-fried Cheese Bacon roll.
New Ubin Seafood is a well-loved family-owned restaurant that offers a “Truly Singaporean Culinary Experience” and specialises in seafood dishes, including chilli crab. With their beginnings traced back to Pulau Ubin, this zi char kitchen moved to the mainland and continues to serve their authentic Singaporean cuisine in a casual, family-friendly environment. The restaurant is known for using fresh, sustainably sourced seafood and a special sauce that is made from a secret recipe. Their Classic Chilli Crab is cooked using the live mud crab, which comes in 2 options for its weight, 300g – 400g and 800g. The crabs are also available in 10 other cooking methods, including black pepper, salted egg and bee hoon soup (additional $13). Mantous (3 pc per serving) are available at a price of $4, with the options of it being deep-fried and steamed.
Located in Balestier, Hua Yu Wee is a hidden gem that has a history dating back to the 1950s. Offering an authentic Singapore food experience, they are an award-winning restaurant that serves seafood and zi char dishes at an affordable price. The restaurant sources its crabs from local fishermen, ensuring that the crabs are as fresh as possible. This helps to retain the natural sweetness and juiciness of the crabs, which is key to creating a delicious chilli crab dish. The crabs are stir-fried in a tangy and spicy sauce that is sure to please. The chilli crab sauce is made from a secret blend of spices and seasonings and is made to perfectly complement the sweetness of the crab. Aside from the Chilli Crab, their signature dishes also include the Black Pepper Crab, Feng Sha Chicken, Lobster with Italian Sauce and La La Hor Fan!
Alliance Seafood is a stall at Newton Food Centre that was awarded the Singapore Michelin Bib Gourmand for its chilli crab. Offering seafood and zi char dishes at an affordable price, it has been around for more than 30 years. The chilli crab has tender and juicy meat that comes on a huge plate, with bits of egg in the crab sauce. The sauce is mildly spicy, with a tinge of sweetness! To go along with the chilli crab sauce are fried mantous (6 pc per serving), priced at $7.20. Disposable plastic gloves and tissue papers are also kindly prepared by the stall since eating chilli crab would tend to be messy. Alliance Seafood also offers crab sets so that you are able to have a filling meal without having too much trouble deciding what to order!
A halal-certified eatery, Sinaran Seafood and Catering is a stall located in a coffee shop under HDB Block 26 at Teck Whye. Though it is a seafood place, they also offer chicken rice, western food and muslim rojak. It is one of the places that has one of the cheapest chilli crab in Singapore! The locals that stay around the area enjoy the food here as it’s one of the few stalls that offer halal Chinese seafood that’s reasonably priced. Their chilli crab sauce is thick and comes with a good kick of spiciness. To complete the experience, to order some fried mantous ($5) to go along with the chilli crab or pair it with other zi char dishes such as the Sweet & Sour Sliced Fish ($10 - $20).
10. Mellben Seafood
Established since 1993, Mellben Seafood is one of the first few dedicated crab restaurants in Singapore. They are a family-run business that follows a family recipe that’s made with a secret ingredient and specializes in crabs. In 2019, Mellben Seafood @ AMK was even listed in The Singapore Michelin Guide and awarded with a Michelin Plate. Mentioned as one of the best Chilli Crabs in Singapore, Mellben’s Chilli Crab is served using large crabs that are doused in a thick, spicy and sweet chilli sauce that’s starchy. If you are worried about the spiciness, don’t worry as you are able to adjust it accordingly! Including the classic Chilli Crab, the chef has a total of 15 different ways to cook the crabs! There are also live seafood options and zhi char dishes that you can choose from at Mellben Seafood.
For those who want to bring a taste of Singapore's chilli crab back home, the chilli crab paste is a popular souvenir option. This versatile paste can be used to make chilli crab at home or added to other dishes to create a spicy and flavourful sauce. Chilli crab paste can be found in many grocery stores and supermarkets across Singapore. Some popular places to buy chilli crab paste include Mustafa Centre, NTUC FairPrice, and Sheng Siong Supermarket. Be sure to check the ingredient list and pick a high-quality paste to ensure that you're getting the best taste.