Black-Pepper Crab

Black-Pepper Crab

Everyone knows about Singapore’s chilli crab but the other – arguably tastier – crab dish worth seeking in the Lion City is the version cooked in a spicy, black-pepper sauce.

The dish’s more famous cousin, chilli crab, emerged in the 1950s when Madam Cher’s husband asked her to cook crabs differently. Instead of steaming, she stir-fried them in tomato sauce and chilli. The result was so good that she started serving seafood by the beach, before setting up Palm Beach seafood restaurant. A rival restaurant, Long Beach, started the black-pepper version in 1959. Today they are both possibly Singapore’s most famed dishes.

You’ll need

5 tbs coarsely ground black
2 large crabs, quartered
(Dungeness, Sri Lankan or
mud varieties)
6 tbs unsalted butter
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and
½ tsp ground white pepper
Pinch of Chinese five-spice
1 tbs oyster sauce
3 tbs Chinese rice wine
3 tbs water
Peanut oil

Cooking Method

1 In a wok, dry-fry the ground peppercorns on low heat to bring out the fragrance. Set aside.
2 Heat oil in a large wok over high heat until it starts shimmering.
3 Add the crab, ensuring that the heat remains high. Cook for 4–5 minutes and set aside. Drain the oil from the wok.
4 Reduce the heat to medium. Add the butter and fry the garlic, being careful not to burn them both.
5 Quickly add the black peppercorns, white pepper, five spice powder, oyster sauce, rice wine and water and mix.
6 Return the crab to the wok and stir to completely coat the crab in sauce. Remove and serve.

Tasting notes

While there’s a certain romance in having seafood on a beach, good food can always trump the setting it’s served in. And good food is just what this dish is: fresh crab, inherently sweet, tender and juicy, coated with a sticky, buttery pepper sauce – a hot wok is the key to combining the two elements. Of course, eating black-pepper crab is a messy affair: it’s all fingers on deck when you crack the shell to slurp out the succulent flesh. While doing that, the peppery sauce tantalises your lips and tongue. Leave your white shirt at home and don’t forget to wear a bib – it will get messy!

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