Singapore’s number one culinary export to the world is none other than chilli crab, and here's where to find the best versions in the city
Singapore’s number one culinary export to the world is none other than chilli crab, practically cementing its status as one of our unofficial national dishes. Said to be invented by Madam Cher Yam Tian in the 1950s, the original chilli crab was stir-fried with bottled chilli sauce and bottled tomato sauce, then sold from a pushcart. Today, the version of chilli crab we know consists of sambal, vinegar, tomato paste, and egg – an “improved” recipe by chef Hooi Kok Wah, one of the four “heavenly kings” of Chinese cuisine in the 1960s. Patronise these seafood and zi char restaurants in Singapore for the best renditions of the ever-popular chilli crab.
Red House Seafood
Red House has been serving this chilli-drenched crustacean since 1976 and has justifiably garnered a loyal following. The juicy crab at this stalwart is on the sweeter end of the spectrum, with a touch of vinegar that smoothens the texture of the gravy. If you’re after chilli crab without getting your hands dirty, try their signature Takesumi chilli crab bao, packed with rich gravy and shreds of crab.
Red House Seafood, two locations.
JUMBO Seafood has always been the place to go for the iconic dish since it opened in 1987 at the still-popular East Coast Seafood Centre. The gravy accompanying the flavoursome crab at Jumbo is slightly more tomatoe-y than elsewhere and richly layered with egg. Still a classic!
Jumbo Seafood Restaurant, various locations.
No Signboard Seafood
This seafood restaurant has gone from humble Aljunied hawker stall with no signboard (hence the name) to culinary treasure in its storied 40-year history, and for good reason. The restaurant has consistently managed to serve up quality chilli crab over the years. The spiciness of the sauce, and the plump, meaty crabs make this one a prime contender on our list.
No Signboard Seafood, various locations.
While more famous for its unconventional signature coffee sauce crab, Majestic Bay’s dish is also a stellar example of the classic done right. As an added bonus, the restaurant’s location right under the Flower Dome at Marina Gardens makes for quite the luxe experience.
Majestic Bay, 18 Marina Gardens Drive, 01-10 Flower Dome, Singapore 018953
Long Beach Seafood
Prefer your chilli crab with more spice? Head to Long Beach Seafood – you’ll mop up every bit of the thick, vermillion gravy with your choice of steamed or fried mantous. They also have excellent black pepper crabs, in case someone in your dinner party doesn’t like chilli crab (though we would find that hard to believe).
Long Beach Seafood Restaurant, various outlets.
Crab lovers are in for a treat at this Serangoon seafood resto. The menu boasts over a dozen crab preparation styles – from the popular salted egg (a specialty here) to the classic black pepper, white pepper and chilli crab option. Crab Party’s rendition of the chilli crab is more spicy than sweet, so spice fiends will find themselves mopping up every last bit of gravy.
Crab Party, 100 Yio Chu Kang Road, Singapore 545576
Palm Beach Seafood
After selling the dish from a pushcart for a number of years, Madam Cher Ya and her husband opened Palm Beach Seafood in 1962 along Upper East Coast Road. While the couple sold off some of their shares in the restaurant and migrated to New Zealand, Palm Beach’s chilli crab today is still tender and sweet, with the sauce done just right!
Palm Beach Seafood Restaurant, #01-09 One Fullerton, 1 Fullerton Road, Singapore 049213, p. 6336 8118.
Master Crab Seafood Restaurant
They have a couple of outlets around town but for anThis open-air outlet’s tucked away in a coffee shop along Ghim Moh Road and serves a dizzying array of crab creations like crab bee hoon and salted egg crab. But their decadent chilli crab takes the cake with its fleshy, sweet crabs, doused in thick sauce.
Master Crab Seafood Restaurant, various locations including
Eating at Roland Restaurant is definitely a blast from the past, because the eponymous Roland is the son of Madam Cher (the creator of chilli crab). Not only do they serve the original version of chilli crab, which is lighter and not as rich, they’re also still serving the dishes the original Palm Beach Seafood was renown for, like soy sauce prawns and crispy baby squid.
Roland Restaurant, 89 Marine Parade Central, #06-750, Singapore 440089
Hua Yu Wee
Housed in a grand mansion along Upper East Coast Road, Hua Yu Wee is the only 1970s seafood restaurant that stayed along the stretch and did not relocate to East Coast Park like the others. Snag a table at the open-air backyard and be transported back to the yesteryears of Singapore. Must orders are the piquant chilli crab and crispy baby squid.
Hua Yu Wee, 462 Upper East Coast Road, Singapore 466508
Melben Seafood is definitely your go-to when your crab craving demands to be satisfied. Their chilli crab is pretty good, though we think the crab claypot beehoon is the clear winner at this Ang Mo Kio restaurant. Be prepared to queue, ‘cause they don’t take reservations.
Mellben Seafood, Block 211 #01-11/15, Toa Payoh Lorong 8, Singapore 310211
Froth for Chilli Crab Pasta
Smack in the heart of the CBD is this fusion restaurant where corporate folks can adjourn to for an unorthodox post-work perk-up. While the classic chilli crab dish is hardly suitable for a quick lunch, at Froth, you can sit down to their superb soft-shell chilli crab pasta ($26.90) and still make it back to work on time (without a chilli-stained shirt).
Froth, Ascott Raffles Place, 2 Finlayson Green, Singapore 049247
Slake for Chilli Crab Noodles
A hidden treasure in the Eastern ’hood of Bedok, Slake is a contemporary Asian kitchen that doesn’t shy away from experimenting with local recipes. One of their more popular mod-Sin dishes is the chilli crab noodles ($22) that’ll be a hit with fans of sweeter, eggy-er chilli crab sauce. If you’re after something lighter, opt for the chilli crab rillettes served with thick slices of toasted bread ($14).
Slake Bar & Kitchen, 15 Swan Lake Ave, Singapore 455711
Restaurant Labyrinth for Chilli Crab Ice Cream
For all the daredevils, visit the Labyrinth and try its chilli crab in ice cream. Part of the restaurant’s signature menu, this progressive hot-cold starter by chef Han Li Guang has a deep-fried soft shell crab sitting atop a ‘beach’ of mantou crumbs and crab bisque foam, with a dollop of frozen and spicy chilli crab ice cream on the side.
Restaurant Labyrinth, #02-23 Esplanade Mall, 8 Raffles Avenue, Singapore 039802
Halia for Chilli Crab Spaghettini
There’s a reason why this is the signature dish at the Halia. The Singapore-Italian hybrid makes for an aromatic concoction, there’s a lot of sauce for you to slurp up as well as generous chunks of crab which validates its $26 price tag. Treat yo’ self!
Halia, 1 Cluny Road, Ginger Garden, Singapore Botanic Garden, Singapore 259569
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