Malaccan Black-Pepper Crab

Photo by su-lin/flickr

Serves 4.


2 large, fresh mud crabs
peanut oil for deep frying
4 spring onions (scallions), sliced
1 tablespoon fine shreds of fresh ginger
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
sprig of fresh curry leaves
2 tablespoons coarsely cracked black peppercorns
2 tablespoons canned, salted black beans
rinsed, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons kecap manis (sweet black soy sauce)
2 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons boiling water
2 tablespoons butter
1 or 2 hot chillies, sliced (optional)


Clean the raw crabs. With a heavy chopper, cut each crab body in two. Detach the large claws and crack them to allow flavours to penetrate.

Heat peanut oil in a wok and when very hot add the crabs and fry, turning them in the oil, until the shells turn red and the crabs are half cooked. Lift out on a slotted spoon and set aside in a dish. Pour away all but about 3 tablespoons of oil and return wok to heat. Fry the spring onions, ginger, garlic and curry leaves, stirring, over gentle heat, taking care the garlic does not burn. Add the black pepper and stir-fry for only a few seconds, then quickly add the black beans, soy sauce, sugar and boiling water, return crabs to the wok, stir to coat with the mixture, and cover with lid. Allow to steam for 10-15 minutes, checking to ensure that sauce does not burn and adding a little water if necessary.

Just before serving, add the butter and chillies if used, toss to distribute melted butter over the crabs, and serve accompanied only by bowls of steaming hot white rice.

Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)