Malaccan black pepper crab with black beans, ginger and curry leaves


This Malaysian crab dish is delicious and worth a trip to a Chinese supermarket.


  • 1kg/2lb 2oz raw or cooked whole crabs, such as brown crab, mud crab or blue swimmer
  • 1 tbsp ketjap manis (available from oriental supermarkets)
  • 1 tbsp Chinese fermented salted black beans, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 tsp palm sugar
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 4 spring onions, trimmed, thinly sliced on the diagonal, plus extra, to serve
  • 25g/1oz peeled ginger, finely shredded
  • 15g/½oz garlic, peeled, finely chopped
  • 20 fresh curry leaves (about 2 sprigs)
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
  • 15g/½oz butter
  • 1 medium-hot red chilli, cut in half lengthways, thinly sliced


  1. For both raw and cooked crabs, break off and discard the tail flaps.

  2. Break off the claws, then cut them in half at the joint using a large-bladed knife and carefully crack the shells of each claw using a hammer or the back of a knife.

  3. Chop the body section of each crab in half, then gently tug on the legs to pull the body pieces away from the back shell. (Use a knife for leverage if the body pieces do not come away easily with the legs still attached).

  4. Turn each piece of body meat over and remove the dead man's fingers (soft gills).

  5. Cut each piece of body meat in half again so that each piece has two legs attached to it. (Discard the back shell, or save it to make stock for another dish.)

  6. Mix together the ketjap manis, black beans, palm sugar and three tablespoons of water in a bowl until well combined. Set aside.

  7. Heat 75ml/3fl oz of the vegetable oil in a large, lidded wok over a high heat.

  8. When the oil is smoking, add the crabmeat and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, or until the crabmeat is half cooked through (or until warmed through, if using cooked crabmeat). Remove from the wok and set aside to drain on kitchen paper.

  9. Pour all but 1½ tablespoons of the oil out of the wok, then return the wok to a medium heat. Add the sliced spring onions and all of the ginger, garlic and curry leaves and stir-fry gently for 1-2 minutes, taking care not to let anything brown.

  10. Add the black pepper and stir-fry the mixture for a few seconds, then stir in the black bean mixture.

  11. Return the partially cooked crab pieces to the wok and stir until coated in the mixture. Cover the wok with a lid and cook for 4-5 minutes (if the crab is raw), or 2-3 minutes (if using cooked crab), until the crabmeat is cooked through.

  12. When the crab is cooked through, remove the pan from the wok, then stir in the butter and sliced red chilli, carefully turning the cooked crabmeat as you stir to coat it in the sauce.

  13. To serve, divide the Malaccan crab between two shallow serving bowls. Sprinkle over the sliced spring onion.

Recipe Tips

If using live crabs, kill each crab by turning it onto its back so that their eyes are facing you. Drive a thick skewer or a thin-bladed knife between the eyes and into the centre, then lift up the tail flap and drive the skewer or knife through the underside.