If you have ever visited Singapore you will have experienced the famous, very delicious chilli crab. It is the national dish. Easy to make, it is a firm favourite in the Tonks household, and chilli crab night is an occasion that brings the family together. Instructions for cooking a fresh crab are in the recipe for Dressed Crab on page 39 of my new cookbook.
1 cooked crab, weighing about 1kg – hen or cock crab is fine as they both work well; size is up to you and your appetite
4 tablespoons cornflour
vegetable oil for deep-frying
For the paste
8 fresh red chillies, roughly chopped
75g peeled fresh ginger, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon shrimp paste – you can buy this in Asian stores; it’s smelly but adds an incredible flavour to the dish
vegetable oil for frying
For the sauce
2 tablespoons palm sugar or soft brown sugar
4 tablespoons tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons sriracha chilli sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
200ml chicken stock – I use Knorr powder
2 eggs, beaten
2 spring onions, finely sliced
a handful of chopped coriander
Open the crab: place it on its back, put your thumbs under the back legs and push up until the crab pops apart (this can be difficult but it will open). Keep the top shell (clean and dry it) and the brown meat but drain off any water and discard the dead man’s fingers – the small feathery things on the body (you may also find some in the top shell) – and any membrane. Pull off the claws, cut them in half and give the pieces a good crack so the sauce will be able to get into the meat. Cut the body into 6 by first cutting it in half, top to bottom, then slicing in between the legs so each leg has a clump of body at the end of it.
Put the pieces of crab body and claws in a bowl. Sprinkle over the cornflour and toss, making sure everything is completely coated. This will give the crab a nice stickiness when it’s cooked. Heat the oil in a deep pan to about 160°C. (If you don’t have a thermometer or deep-fat fryer, heat the oil in a deep pan – it is hot enough to fry the crab when a small piece of bread dropped in quickly fizzles and crisps.)
Working in batches, deep-fry all the pieces of crab for about 3 minutes, then drain on kitchen paper.
To make the paste, blitz the chillies, ginger, garlic and shrimp paste together in a food processor. Get your wok or large frying pan nice and hot, then add a little oil and fry the paste for a few minutes. Add the sugar followed by the ketchup, sriracha and soy. Stir together, then add the stock and mix well.
Add the pieces of crab and the brown crab meat and cook for 5–6 minutes.
Remove the crab and place on your serving dish or in the crab shell, if using for decoration. Turn up the heat under the wok and stir the beaten eggs into the sauce. As soon as you start to see strands of white appear, remove from the heat and pour the sauce over the crab. Garnish with spring onions and coriander and serve.
The above recipe is just one of many delicious recipes celebrating British seafood from Mitch Tonks’ sixth cookbook
Mitch Tonks is the founder of Rockfish and one of the UK’s most acclaimed restaurateurs, chefs and authors. His recipes are always a true celebration of seafood, a combination of simplicity, taste and zeal. This, his sixth cookbook, continues to show how easy it is to eat sustainable British seafood informally with minimum fuss and maximum joy.
The book reflects the changing catch and the changing scenery of coastal life through summer and in winter with stunning food photography from Chris Terry.
Mitch brings to life some fabulous seafood recipes, ones that have helped shape the Rockfish history; dishes that are enticing and full of flavour yet so simple, accessible and unpretentious. Celebrating our island’s most wonderful harvest and creating occasions to savour, this is delicious seafood made to share with family and friends.
With more and more people discovering the joy of home cooking during lockdown, Mitch hopes this book will give people confidence when it comes to preparing and cooking seafood – particularly when Britain has such an abundance of fresh fish and seafood right on its doorstep. From simple fried or raw fish to Singapore chilli crab, mackerel shawarma, pizza ‘claminara’ and fried salt and pepper cuttlefish, this is a delicious and exciting collection of recipes that will have fish fanatics sighing with pleasure and turn reluctant seafood eaters into super-fans.
Living on the quayside in Brixham among the hustle and bustle of a thriving fishing port of such national importance, Mitch’s Rockfish restaurants are the realisation of his enduring vision of creating amazing seafood destinations. With eight restaurants across the Devon and Dorset coastline and a growing seafood-at-home delivery business, his pace and energy remain undaunted.
Mitch opened his first fishmongers with nothing but a love of British seafood, stemming from his upbringing and cooking with his grandmother, and a desire to make it more available near where he lived. Leaving behind a world of accountancy and finance, more than two decades have now passed and his vision to bring the joy of eating wonderful seafood to the nation remains undiminished. A captivating story in itself that sets the scene for the reader and captures the spirit of the book.
The Rockfish Cookbook –Mitch Tonks
Published: 17th May 2021 – pre-order your copy now Price: £18
Where can I get a copy? At all Rockfish restaurants and on the Rockfish website