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Singapore Black Pepper Crab
Adapted from www.makantime.com/mom6.htm  

Saying that Singaporeans are food-obsessed is like saying that humans breathe air to live.  A recent count turned up 3,725 restaurants and 17,080 hawker stalls in this island nation of 4 million: that’s one place to eat for every 200 people.  One website, www.makantime.com, perfectly conveys the unbridled passion Singaporeans bring to food.  Makan is Malay for “time to eat,” and the site offers highly opinionated, enthusiastic raves and pans of places where one can sample fish head curry and all the other exotic dishes that makes dining out in S’pore such a thrilling adventure. 

For those of us who live elsewhere, Thian, the site’s creator, now residing in Amsterdam, has generously posted his mother’s “top secret” recipes for his childhood favorites, among them Black Pepper Crab.  Peppercorns play an unabashedly starring role in this dish, which is practically a national institution.  It begins with large, meaty crabs, which are stirfried twice, once on their own, then in an incendiary spice paste which features spoonfuls of coarsely ground black pepper, along with ginger, garlic, soy  and oyster sauces.  The pepper-crusted shells are fiery hot; in contrast, the meat inside the claws is succulent and sweet.  As makantime correspondents like to say, “Shiok!” [“Delicious!”] 

To serve 4

Ingredients for the crab:

2 live Dungeness crabs, 1-1/2 to 2 pounds apiece
1/4 cup canola oil.
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped fine
2 tablespoons ginger root, chopped fine
1 tablespoon green serrano or jalapeno chile, chopped fine
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/4 cup black pepper, coarsely ground (or to taste)
2 tablespoons butter

Method for the crab: 

1. Have your fish market  kill and clean the crabs, cut them into quarters and crack the    claws.
2. In a large cast iron wok, heat the oil over a high flame until very hot, but not smoking.  Stir fry the crab pieces in two batches, 4 to 5 minutes each, until they turn bright red.  Remove from the wok and set aside.
3. Lower the heat to medium high and add the butter to the wok.  As soon as it begins to sizzle, add the rest of the ingredients.  Stir fry briefly.  Then return the crab pieces to the wok and stir fry for 4 to 5 minutes more, making sure that the pieces are well coated with the spice mixture.
4. Remove from the wok and arrange on a platter.  Serve at once with ice cold beer and plenty of napkins.


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