Pepper and curry leaf crab

Pepper and curry leaf crab

Leanne Kitchen

Malaysia is nirvana for the food lover. It’s at the confluence of so many culinary threads – Indian, Chinese, Portuguese, Thai and Indonesian. The flavours are bold, spicy and rich and are infused into diverse cooking styles. It’s possibly the ultimate ‘fusion’ cuisine. One of the best (and loveliest) spots to contemplate this first hand is the historic city of Malacca, where this dish loosely hails from. If we were eating this in Malacca, we’d probably wash it down with a fresh coconut milkshake from Klebang, on Jalan Klebang Besar.


Quantity Ingredient
2 1/2 tablespoons dried shrimp
2 tablespoons fermented black beans, rinsed well
2 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon caster sugar
4 raw blue swimmer crabs or other large crabs
125ml vegetable oil
6 red asian shallots, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons black peppercorns, crushed
large handful fresh curry leaves, plus extra to garnish
30g butter


  1. Finely grind the dried shrimp to a powder in an electric spice grinder. Set aside.
  2. Combine the fermented black beans, soy sauces, sugar and 60 ml water in a bowl and set aside.
  3. To prepare the crabs, working with one at a time, turn the crab over so the underside is facing you. Using your fingers, lift the tail flap and pull the outer shell away from the body from the point under the flap. Discard that shell.
  4. Cut each crab into quarters using a large, heavy knife. Pull out and discard any feathery gills from the crab pieces, then rinse lightly under cold running water. Dry the crabs on paper towel. In a large wok over medium–high heat, stir-fry the crab quarters in the oil, in 2 batches, for 3–4 minutes or until half cooked. Transfer to a large bowl using a slotted spoon.
  5. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the oil from the wok. Add the shallots, garlic, peppercorns and curry leaves and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the dried shrimp powder and return the crab to the wok with the butter and the fermented black bean mixture. Cover the wok with a lid and cook, turning the crab once, for 5 minutes or until the crab is cooked through.
  6. Serve immediately with fresh curry leaves scattered over the top.
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