Comfort Cooking

Covid-19 stay-home recipe: Chill out with this chilli crab dip

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Chilli crab and scallop dip.
Chilli crab and scallop dip.ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

How can you get a taste of chilli crab at home without going the whole hog and handling live crabs?

Try this Chilli Crab And Scallop Dip.

Chilli crab is a classic local favourite that is Singaporean in origin. Past reports acknowledged chef Cher Yam Tian as the creator of the dish in the 1950s, first peddling it from a pushcart in the East Coast.

For my pared-down version, I use crab meat so there is no fussing about with live crabs. I throw in some scallops for an extra touch of decadence.

Cook the spice paste when you are free and keep it in the fridge. Freeze the paste if you intend to keep it longer than two days.

Get store-bought crushed peanuts that come without sugar or use baked cashew nuts. Grind and add them to the gravy at the very end - it adds flavour and thickens the gravy.

If you have no grinder, use a meat pounder or rolling pin to bash the cashew nuts while they are in the bag. The beaten eggs also act as a thickening agent.

Chicken stock will add flavour, but if you do not have any on hand, water will do fine, as the spice mix will give sufficient punch.

If you do not mind the extra labour, deep-fry store-bought mantou until they are golden brown for a delectable accompaniment to the dip.

For a healthier option, toast the mantou in the oven. You will not get that attractive golden hue, but it will still be great for mopping up the gravy.

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30g dried chillies

5 red finger chillies, sliced

3 garlic cloves

220g shallots

15g galangal, diced

15g ginger, diced

2 lemongrass stalks, finely sliced (use 5cm of the white root part)

3 candlenuts

2cm piece of belacan paste

4 Tbs cooking oil

800ml water or chicken stock

3 Tbs tomato ketchup

2½ Tbs sugar

8 scallops

300g crab meat

2 beaten eggs

½ tsp salt

30g baked cashew nuts, crushed



1. De-seed the dried chillies. Boil in hot water until soft. Rinse and set aside.

2. Blitz the dried chillies, red finger chillies, shallots, garlic, shallots, galangal, ginger, lemongrass, candlenuts and belacan together. Add a little water to help the blender blades rotate smoothly.

3. Heat 4 Tbs cooking oil in a wok or deep frying pan. Fry the spice mixture over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes until fragrant.

4. Add water and stir. Once the mixture is smooth and comes to a boil, add the tomato ketchup and sugar.

5. Bring it to a simmer, add the scallops and cook for 1 minute.

6. Add the crab meat.

7. Bring mixture to a boil and stir in the egg.

8. Season with salt.

9. Add the crushed cashew nuts.

10. Serve piping hot.

Serves four to five

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2020, with the headline 'Chill out with this chilli crab dip'. Subscribe