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Singapore Black Pepper Crabs Recipe!

Black Pepper Crabs

Behold, my black pepper crabs! After watching the video, you might be wondering, “is it really so simple?”

Yes it is.

Some people have suggested that I should have deep fried or steamed the crab first, then melted the butter and fry the shallots and garlic etc etc.  Well, there are many styles of black pepper crabs but the one that my wife likes most is the one from Eng Seng at Joo Chiat Place. And since I am cooking this dish for her, I had to make sure that it is as close to theirs as possible.

My reaction is the same as yours the first time I saw the way they make this dish.  Theirs is an open kitchen, so on the way to the toilets, you can observe how their crabs are cooked.  Everything just goes into the wok and it is cooked until the gravy is reduced.  This makes a lot of sense when you think about it, as all of the crab juices goes into the gravy, giving it that crustacean sweetness and flavour!

This way of cooking also means that you can easily replicate it at home.  You can even cook it in a large pot or a saucepan!  So it is a dish everyone can cook at home with excellent results.  I have included a short video on how to prep the crabs as well so that you know how to properly kill and chop up the crabs.

The recipe for the sauce is something which I concocted after several trials.  It might not be exactly the same as Eng Seng, but it was good enough for my wife to say that she wanted me to cook it again soon!  So for me at least,  it’s “Mission Accomplished!”

Ingredients

Crabs 2-3 Large 1-1.5 kg

Group A
Black pepper 30g  )
White pepper 30g )  Lightly toasted and ground
Shallots 5 (50g) chopped
Garlic 3 cloves (30g) chopped

Group B – Sauce mix 
Oyster sauce 2 Tbsp
Black soy sauce 2 Tbsp
Kicap manis 2 Tbsp
Maggie seasoning 1 Tbsp
Hon-dashi powder 2 Tbsp (or chicken stock powder)
Sugar 2 Tbsp (adjust to taste)
Water 1/2 cup

Group C
Butter 125g (half block)  (You can use less if you wish)
Cornflour 1 Tbsp dissolved in water

Steps

Place your crabs in the freezer for 30mins to anaesthetize them. Then clean and chop up the crabs.

Toast and grind the black and white peppercorns and set aside.  (You can buy ready ground ones but may have to add more) Mix the sauces in Group B in a bowl. Heat the wok and fry the shallots first till light brown and then add garlic and fry till brown and fragrant. Add the sauce and butter.  Once the butter has melted, add the crabs and enough water to cover 80% of the crabs.  Stir to mix well bring to a simmer and cover for the first 10mins.  Then remove the cover, stir and toss the crabs and continue to reduce the gravy for 5 mins. Add cornflour to thicken the sauce.  Claw lick’n good!

Here is the video on how to prepare your crabs!

Note:  You may have noticed that a few legs are missing.  This recipe was done over Chinese New Year and so I had to buy the crabs 2 days before and keep them alive.  When crabs are stressed, they drop their legs.   So, it is best to buy your crabs the same day that you want to prepare them!  For instructions on how to choose crabs, please see my tutorial on how to choose good meaty crabs!

  • Derick Ip

    Would be a better idea to kill the crab instantly instead of freezing? Thawing or hardening the meat slightly without defreezing and steam might affect the texture, what do you think?

    • Minhuey Chen Ryan

      You’re just stunning the crab by putting it in the freezer for 30 minutes, but you haven’t frozen the crab at that point. Consider: if you are making ice in an ice cube tray, the ice hasn’t even formed by then. Plus, the way Dr Tay recommended is also more humane:)

      • Derick Ip

        Really? Let’s try put you in the fridge for 30 minutes and see what happens 😉 Yes you are right the ice hasn’t formed in 30 minutes, but if you look into the microscope there might be tiny ice crystals forming, which could affect the meat texture slightly, just saying. Being humane in killing yet inhumane by consuming poultry, meat or crustaceans is just rubbing salt on the wound lol

        P.S: Note that I said thawing or hardening the meat slightly, not freezing the crab meat.