Where to eat the best chilli crab in Singapore
Here’s our guide to help you find the best of Singapore’s unofficial national dish.
- January 2018
What could possibly top freshly cooked crab, juicy and infused with the very essence of the sea? When it’s drenched in a famously delicious zesty chilli sauce, that’s what. Chilli crab is Singapore’s unofficial national dish, fitting for this prosperous island nation that built its wealth on the shoreline. Here’s our guide to help you find the best chilli crab in Singapore.
Singaporean chilli crab: the history
The dish originates from the early 1950s, when Madam Cher Yam Tian experimented with a tomato and chilli combination to enrich the sweetness of crab meat. She started selling the crabs from a pushcart in the street, before progressing to a modest beachside restaurant that was always heaving with happy diners. Prominent local chefs built on the recipe by adding egg, vinegar and sambal to the mix, creating the rich gravy that’s soon to stun your tastebuds.
New Ubin Seafood: the tradition continues
Singaporeans historically had to board a bumboat to get to this favourite chilli crab destination, which was once nestled on the coast of Pulau Ubin. The restaurant has now moved to new digs in Bukit Batok, on the fringes of Bukit Timah National Park, so you can work up an appetite with a pre-meal jungle hike. It’s a bit of a journey, so make it worthwhile: go hungry, order up big and spend the afternoon stretching your belt. The food is not fussy, and neither is the decor: just fresh kampong-style seafood that hits the spot.
Location: Level 6, 63 Hillview Avenue, Bukit Batok
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Jumbo Seafood: it’s all about location(s)
This mainstay favourite serves up succulent crab dishes that have won many awards over the years. Chilli crab is the most popular, with black pepper crab running a close second. The service is professional and fast—a necessity given the lines of hungry customers waiting for a table. If you’re in a beach mood, head to their East Coast outlet. If you’re down by the river, call in to their Riverwalk location. Many agree that the best outlet is at Dempsey Hill, a charming enclave of restaurants, bars and art galleries housed in old army barracks—an interesting place for a post-feast stroll.
Location: Block 11, Dempsey Road #01-16, Dempsey Hill
Block 1206, East Coast Parkway #01-07, East Coast
20 Upper Circular Road, #B1-48, Riverwalk
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No Signboard: the quiet achiever
Strange name, spectacular crab. Back in the late 1970s, Madam Ong Kim Hoi sold her famous white pepper crab from a modest stall at the Mattar Road Hawker Centre. She couldn’t afford a signboard, so when people raved about the crab and wanted to send their friends to try it, they had to refer to her stall as ‘No Signboard’. The name stuck and it now graces four outlets in Singapore. The best for tourists is at Geylang, a lively district with a bit of edge. It’s not fancy, but that’s the appeal. The mantou (soft buns) are extra fluffy here—you won’t leave a drop of chilli sauce on the plate.
Location: 414 Geylang Road, Geylang
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Roland Restaurant: back to the source
If you’re a culinary purist, you’ll want to go to the place where this tale began. The son of Madam Cher, Roland Lim is proud custodian of the original chilli crab recipe, a lighter and sweeter version of its more complex modern counterpart. Roland serves up both versions using Sri Lankan crabs with the roe included. Whichever one you order, you’ll want to use the fried mantou to soak up every last bit. It’s a sizeable restaurant sitting atop a rather industrial-looking building, but the interior is spacious and comfy—think classic wedding venue.
Location: 89 Marine Parade Central, East Coast
Longbeach: a cheeky splurge
It’s arguably the best seafood restaurant in Singapore, so it’s no surprise that their chilli crab is a winner. Their super-fresh, air-flown crab is really juicy. If you like a sauce with a bit of punch, you’ll be happy here: it’s definitely on the spicy side. The Dempsey outlet is housed in a historic colonial building, and it’s a real treat to sit out on the verandah and look out over the greenery—you might even spot a celebrity or two. Save about 20% by going to the cheaper East Coast outlet, more of a hawker-style spot in the East Coast Seafood Centre.
Location: 25 Dempsey Road, Dempsey Hill
1202 East Coast Parkway, East Coast
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