Singapore Black Pepper Crab

In terms of food, Singapore is the most fascinating place I’ve visited. It’s a while ago I was there, back in 2005, when I added a couple days layover on a trip to Borneo. On the plane I got to know a Norwegian expat that ended up showing be around what I think is safe to refer to as the food metropol of South East Asia. For a street food deprived Norwegian, the massive amounts of food stalls (known as hawker stalls), open markets and restaurants, this was a euphoric experience, though probably reinforced by sleep deprivation. But it left a lasting impression, and I’ve wanted back ever since.

The tiny country’s location at the tip of the Malay Peninsula has been a natural hub of communication and trade where various cultures and congregated over centuries. This has resulted in the development of genuine fusion food with influences from Malaysia, China, India, Indonesia, Great Britain, Portugal, Thailand, Japan and other countries nearby in addition to former colonial countries.

Black Pepper Crab and Chili Crab – the latter serving as Singapore’s national dish – are two of the most well-known dishes. They are simple to make and can be made with your local crab, whether it being Dungeness crab, brown crab, mud crab, snow crab or king crab. Here is Black Pepper Crab.


1.5 kg (enough for 2 adults)

Active time:

45 min

Total time:

1 hour


  • Curry leaves may be skipped if you can’t get a hold of them, but they do add a distinct flavor to the dish that goes really well with the crab. So try get it.
  • The entire dish may be made using just a singe large pot, sauté pan or wok. Avoid using non-stick though as the crab shells will damage the surface when flipping them.
  • There are many slight variations to this dish, some including umami heavy ingredients as fermented beans, dried shrimp or shrimp paste. Definitely something I will test later.
  • Plan for some bread on the side for soaking up the sauce.


Ca. 1,2–1,5 kg cooked or raw crab of choice; claws, legs and body all good. Depending on the crab type, crack the shells open slightly, leaving room for the sauce to get into the meat.

2 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper

75 grams butter

1 tbsp neutral oil; raps, sunflower, canola, etc.

1 medium onion or similar amount of shallots, halved and sliced finely

5 large cloves of garlic, pressed once with knife blade and chopped finely

Curry leaves, one large fistful, about three sprigs

1 thai chili, seeds removed, finely sliced

2 tbsp oyster sauce

3 tsp tamari or dark soy sauce (can be substituted with normal soy sauce)

2 tsp sugar

2 tbsp corn starched, mixed with same amount of water

450 mL (2 cups) water

Scallions, 2-3 stalks, finely sliced

Cilantro, a couple fistfuls


  1. In a large sauté pan, pot or wok, start by roasting the black pepper for 20 seconds over medium-high heat. Any longer will burn the pepper, watch out.
  2. Add the butter and the oil and make sure to coat the pepper quickly in the fats.
  3. While butter is still melting, add onions and sear for 2 min. Mix well.
  4. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add oyster sauce, tamari/soy sauce, sugar, chili and curry leaves. Mix well and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Add water and cook for 3 minutes.
  7. Add the corn starch mixture and let the sauce thicken for 2 minutes.
  8. Add the crab and turn them around so that all parts get exposed to the liquid. Cook for a total of 10–12 min under a lid. Make sure to flip the crab 3-4 times during this time to make all the shells mix well with the sauce.
  9. Plate up, top with sliced scallions and cilantro. And don’t forget some garlic-roasted white bread, steam buns or similar on the side. You will want it for that remaining sauce.

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