Can’t depart Singapore without trying Chili Crab

If you are here in Singapore you must try chili crab or black pepper crab. It’s a well-known Singaporean dish where mud crabs are stir fried with tomato and a chili based sauce. You may cross out any concern about the level of spicy. This dish will not burn your tongue. Despite the name, chili crab isn’t spicy at all. Even as an Indian woman, I cannot tolerate very spicy food. I don’t like the heat to overpower my tongue. I prefer the spicy level to be at the level where the dish gets a kick of unique flavors. That’s exactly what chili crab delivers—a slightly sweet yet savory taste that is well-balanced and intricate. 

I had my chance to enjoy chili crab at a farewell dinner for Carrie. Carrie was out student teacher who was only here for a few months, but always looking to try new things and make the most out of her short Singapore experience. We headed to Jumbo at 11 Dempsey Road for the chili crab experience.

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Seated outside, nature cooperated. It wasn’t too hot and no rain. Chili crab is best enjoyed with a group. After drinks, we were served a salad. I ordered a simple coconut water. Generally speaking, most stores and restaurants have a different idea of customer service than the West. It’s because most people here do not like to be coddled. Here the service was closer to the expectations of most visitors. I learned to discern good service vs. bad service through cultural contexts. I’d say the service was great.

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Here’s the moment we were all waiting for.

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The smell was simply sensuous and inviting. The crab is served with rice and deep fried bread. I won’t lie. It is messy but they gave us a napkin to keep curry off our clothes, wet towelettes, and tools to break open the crab. The crab was delicious and I’d so try it again. When I return home to the US, I’ll definitely grab a bottle of chili crab sauce as a souvenir. I am hoping it is available.

What makes chili crab unique is that each place has it’s own recipe for the chili sauce. The parallel image that comes to my mind is Mexican salsa. Each restaurant and family has their own unique salsa blend. I will definitely try this again. I heard other places were the hawker at Alexandra and Long Beach on the East Coast.

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I’d say: why wait for a celebration as an excuse to eat chili crab? I’m glad to have tried this unique dish. Interestingly, it’s the humble origins were a couple selling stir fry crab with tomato and chili sauce off a cart. Back then, did they even imagine that their creation would eventually be popular all over the country.

On the side: Carrie, I know you had a great time in Singapore. I hope you learned a lot and the experiences here made an impact on your life. I hope you are doing well.

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