Black Pepper Crab

Dungeness crab is a Bay Area holiday tradition, and for my family, that means every year I make saucy, spicy, and deliciously messy Singaporean chili crab. Crab season should have begun a month ago in the Bay Area, but this year, our Dungeness crab are munching on neurotoxins and are off limits. If I were to be getting my hands on some crab, though, I’d be cooking this black pepper crab. It’s also Singaporean and has become my other go-to crab dish during Bay Area crab season. This one is deep-fried in the shell and it’s also saucy, spicy, and deliciously messy.

Honestly, I have a hard time choosing my favorite between the two. All I know is that both renditions elicit smiles on everyone’s face.

Black pepper crab


1 Dungeness crab
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
cooking oil for deep-frying
cornstarch for dusting
1 tablespoon butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices ginger, each quarter sized, minced
2 red jalapeno chiles, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 green onion, minced

1. In a pot of boiling water, parboil crab for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Remove and discard the gills and spongy parts under the shell. Twist off the claws and legs and crack them open with a mallet. Cut body into 4 pieces.

2. In a small bowl, combine oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sugar.

3. In a wok, heat oil for shallow deep frying to 365 degrees. Dust crab pieces with cornstarch. Deep-fry crab until shells change color and cornstarch crust is slightly golden, about 3 minutes. Lift out crab and drain. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of oil from wok.

4. Add butter to oil in wok and place over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, and chiles. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add pepper and oyster sauce mixture; mix well. Add crab and stir to coat. Simmer over low heat until crab is cooked, 6 to 7 minutes. (If crab was already cooked through when deep-fried, then crab needs to simmer for only 4 minutes.)

5. Arrange crab and sauce on a serving platter and garnish with green onion.

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