• Chilli and black bean blue swimmer crabs (Petrina Tinslay)Source: Petrina Tinslay

Serve this finger licking crab with some rice or warm roti to soak up the delicious sauce. This recipe uses our very own delicious chilli jam but if time doesn’t allow use a good quality one from an Asian grocer. Remember to have a crab picker on hand to crack open the crab and remove every last morsel of crabmeat.






Skill level

Average: 3.9 (5 votes)


  • 750 g ripe tomatoes
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 8 purple shallots, finely sliced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 5 cm piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3 small red chillies, sliced
  • 1 tbsp salted black beans, rinsed
  • 4 uncooked, blue swimmer crabs
  • 2 tbsp chilli jam
  • 2 tbsp shaved palm sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ cup good-quality fish or crab stock
  • 4 shallots, thinly sliced on the diagonal, to garnish
  • 1 cup coriander sprigs, to garnish

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Level of heat medium

Preheat the oven to 200˚C (400˚F). Place the tomatoes on an oven tray and prick the skins. Roast for 20 minutes until the skins blister. Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle, peel the skins and roughly chop, set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok over a high heat and sauté the shallots, garlic, ginger, chillies and black beans until shallots are transparent. Remove from the heat and set aside the wok.

To prepare the crabs, rinse them under cold water. Turn the crabs upside down and lift the flap, pulling away from the crab body to remove the outer shell. Cut the crab in half and remove the gills, cut into quarters and rinse the crab under cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Clean and rinse the removed crab shell and cook with the crab pieces for decoration.

Return the wok to a high heat and add the crab pieces to the wok with the shallots, garlic, ginger and black beans, toss well. Cover the wok and cook for 5–7 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the crab shells have begun to turn bright orange.

Add the tomatoes, chilli jam, palm sugar, fish sauce, tomato paste and fish stock. Bring to a simmer and cook the crab for another 5–10 minutes or until the crab is cooked through. If you would like the sauce thicker, remove the crab pieces from the wok, cover with foil and keep warm, simmer the sauce until it has thickened then return the crab to the wok, toss through the sauce.

Sprinkle with shallots and coriander. Serve immediately with rice or warmed roti. 


the food dept. fact
• We have used blue swimmer crabs in this recipe as they are less daunting for some to handle, rather than a live mud crab. But if you are feeling game, mud crab is just as sensational as the blue swimmer. Talk to your fish monger about storing the mud crab until you are ready to use it, then pop the mud crab into the freezer for 30 minutes to put it to "sleep". Plunge the crab into a large pot of boiling water and simmer for approximately 5 minutes, until the shell has completely changed colour. Clean and prepare the same as the blue swimmer but you will need to give those big claws a crack with a meat mallet before you add them to the sauce, continue to cook as you would the blue swimmers. You could also use large prawns in their shells, lobster tails, scampi, Balmain bugs or a combination of them all. Salted black beans are available in an Asian grocer.


Photography by Petrina Tinslay, styling by David Morgan and art direction by Anne Marie Cummins.