Feb 5, 2011

Crab in a Thai Tomato-Chili Sauce

If you enjoy shellfish, you're going to love this Thai recipe for crab made with a rich-tasting red tomato-chili sauce. The flavorful sauce marries well with the tender crab meat. Either frozen or fresh crab (in the shell) can be used - King Crab or Snow Crab are both delicious; however, King Crab will give you the most meat, and is easier to eat. This dish is so good, it will leave you craving more - even after you've eaten your fill! Makes a superb party dish!

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes


  • 2 lbs/1 kg Snow Crab or King Crab, (or enough for your group or party) - fresh or frozen (if frozen, allow to thaw)
  • optional: 11/2 to 2 cups oil (if deep-frying the crab)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 fresh red chili, minced
  • 1 thumb-size piece galangal OR ginger, sliced into matchstick-like pieces
  • 2 tsp. to 2 Tbsp. chili sauce, depending on how spicy you want it
  • 1/4 cup ketchup or tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. fish sauce (available in tall bottles at Asian stores)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch, dissolved in 4 Tbsp. water
  • 1 egg
  • 3 spring/green onions, finely sliced
  • 2 shallots, minced, OR 1/2 cooking onion, chopped
  • 3-4 Tbsp. white wine OR white cooking wine


Crab Cooking Tips: With this recipe, you can choose to deep-fry, steam, or bake the crab - see below for various cooking methods.
  1. Set a wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle in 2 Tbsp. oil and swirl around, then add the shallots or onion, garlic, red chili, and galangal or ginger. Stir-fry 2-3 minutes, adding a splash of white wine to the pan when it becomes dry.
  2. Add chicken broth, chili sauce, ketchup (or tomato sauce), soy sauce, and fish sauce. Stir well over medium-high until combined. Set aside until crab is cooked.
  3. Cook the crab using one of the methods listed below. Add cooked crab to the sauce. Using 2 large wooden spoons, spatulas, or "shovels", gently turn the crab in the sauce to coat.
  4. Break the egg into a cup and combine it with the arrowroot or cornstarch powder dissolved in water. Whisk with a fork.
  5. Add the egg mixture to the wok. Stir well to combine (the egg mixture will thicken the sauce). Turn down the heat to low, continuing to stir and mix the crab.
  6. Do a taste test for salt and spice, adding more fish sauce if not salty enough (if too salty for your taste, add a squeeze of fresh lime juice). If too spicy for your taste, add a little more tomato sauce (or tomato juice).
  7. To serve: use tongs to lift the crab out of the wok and onto a serving platter or large serving bowl. Pour the sauce over, and sprinkle with green onion. Serve with plenty of Thai jasmine-scented rice and serviettes (you must use your hands to eat this dish, and it can get messy). More Serving Tips: Provide a nut-cracker if you have one, as the shells can sometimes be difficult to crack. Also, satay sticks are very useful for pushing the crab meat out of the shell. Serve this dish with a cold lager, or chilled glass of white or rose wine. ENJOY!
To Deep-Fry the Crab:
  • Place 2 cups oil in wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Test the oil by dipping one end of a crab leg into the pan. The oil should sizzle and easily bubble around the crab (if nothing happens, the oil is still not hot enough). Make sure your crab is thawed and dry before placing it in the oil, or it may splatter.
  • Using tongs, fry the crab until the shells turn bright red (1 minute or less). You may have to cut some of the legs to fit in the pan. Fry in batches of 4-5 legs. Be careful to stand back in case the oil splatters. Drain on paper towels.

To Steam the Crab: Place crab in a steamer, or a colander set over a pot of boiling water (you may have to break it into smaller pieces). Steam for 7 to 9 minutes. Be careful not to over-steam, or the crab will lose its tenderness. To Bake the Crab: Simply wrap in tin foil and bake at 350 degrees for 7 to 9 minutes (avoid over-baking, or crab will turn rubbery). ENJOY!

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