Chilli crab recipe

Chilli crab is spicy, sweet, sour and deliciously messy.
Chilli crab is spicy, sweet, sour and deliciously messy.  Photo: Christopher Pearce

We like to use blue swimmer crabs for this dish as they are sweet and easy to pop open but you can use whatever you like. If the mud crabs are reasonably priced, that would be the dream choice!


50ml olive oil

¼ stalk lemongrass, finely chopped

4 long red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped

50g peeled ginger

4 cloves of garlic

3 eschallots, cut in half

½ bunch coriander root, roughly chopped

60g palm sugar

45ml fish sauce

1 punnet of cherry tomatoes

2tbsp olive oil

6 blue swimmer crabs, cleaned and cut in half

1 tin coconut milk


Make the chilli mix: Place large saucepan on high heat and add the oil and lemongrass. Add the chilli, ginger, garlic, eschallots and coriander root to the the saucepan, stirring constantly. The ingredients should start to caramelise quite quickly. Add the palm sugar and continue cooking until the chillies become soft. Then add the fish sauce and cherry tomatoes, breaking the tomatoes down using the back of your wooden spoon. Keep stirring the mix until all the ingredients are soft and then blend the entire mix into a rough paste. Set aside.

Place a large frying pan on high heat and add the olive oil, chilli paste and crabs. Fry the crabs off in the pan for a minute, making sure to stir them constantly. Add the coconut milk and put the lid on for a minute or so to help steam the crabs. Cook for five minutes, then serve. Generously the divide the crab and sauce into four bowls and throw a handful of sambal over the top and serve with coconut rice

Tip: Be sure not to overcook the crabs or they will start to break down and turn to mush. Don't wear anything white when you're making this as you're bound to get messy; provide fingerbowls for your guests.