Thai chili crab
Taking the train from Bangkok in 1987, my good friend Nitza and I travelled down to Penang, in Malaysia. The journey took us through a verdant landscape dotted with small villages surrounded by paddy fields. One of the most memorable aspects of the journey was the Thai Blue Swimmer crab curry served in the buffet car - spicy, delicious and a million miles away from the ubiquitous stale British Rail cheese sandwich. Cooked in a huge wok in the tiny galley next to the buffet car, this was a symphony of flavours in every bite, with the sweet, spicy, and savoury elements coming together to create an epic and satisfying culinary experience.
- 4 large Blue Swimmer crabs (circa 1 kg) (cleaned and cut into pieces)
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 5 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 shallots (finely chopped)
- 2 stalks lemongrass (white part only, finely minced)
- 3 tbsp Thai red curry paste
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Muscovado sugar
- 5 Thai red chillies (finely chopped)
- 1 cup chicken or seafood stock
- 2 tbsp cornstarch (dissolved in 3 tablespoons water)
- ½ cup fresh Thai basil leaves
- 1 tbsp Fresh coriander (roughly chopped)
- 4 Lime wedges
- Once the crab is fully cooked and the sauce has thickened, remove the wok from the heat.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large wok or pan over medium heat.
- Add the minced garlic, shallots, and lemongrass. Sauté until fragrant and the shallots are translucent.
- Stir in the Thai red curry paste and cook for another minute until fragrant.
- Add the crab pieces to the wok and stir-fry for a couple of minutes to coat them with the curry paste mixture.
- Pour in the fish sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sugar. Stir well to combine.
- Add the chicken or seafood stock and bring the mixture to a simmer. Let it cook for about 8-10 minutes or until the crab is fully cooked.
- Stir in the dissolved cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Adjust the thickness of the sauce according to your preference.
- Add the chopped Thai red chilies and Thai basil leaves. Mix well and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
- Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Serve the Thai chili crab hot with steamed Jasmine rice, garnished with fresh coriander and lime wedges.