The crab is divine but the sauce is the star – sweet yet savoury, slightly spicy and supremely satisfying. You will get it all over your fingers as you crack open the crab shells, and it is simply impossible not to lick it all up.

And you will go back for more, dipping fried or steamed buns, called mantou, to soak up the sauce – a delightful blend of tomatoes and chilli paste, thickened with ribbons of beaten eggs.

Chilli crab is among Singapore’s greatest culinary inventions, the king of all crab dishes. It is easily available in most seafood restaurants, which typically serve it with mud crabs that have deliciously sweet and juicy flesh.

Crab creation

The world famous dish started from a pushcart in 1956. Run by a couple, the husband asked his wife to experiment with other methods of cooking crabs other than just steaming the seafood.

Madam Cher Yam Tian’s first attempt was stir-fried crabs with tomato sauce, but decided the dish will have more kick by adding chilli sauce. They sold their chilli crabs along Kallang River and it became so popular that they opened a restaurant, called Palm Beach.

A famous chef, who opened Dragon Phoenix restaurant later, added a slight twist to the dish – using sambal, tomato paste and eggs to cook the gravy instead of bottled chilli and tomato sauces. This has since become the version most commonly served in Singapore.