Vietnam Recipe: Crab with Tamarind and Chili


Crab with Tamarind and Chili (Cua Rang Me)


  • 4 lbs (2 kg) fresh crabs (about 3 pcs), placed in freezer for 30 minutes
  • Oil, for frying
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind juice
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, halved lengthwise and cut into thin wedges
  • 1 fresh small red chili, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup (10-15 g) saw tooth herb, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup (10-15 g) rice paddy herb, finely chopped
  • Steamed rice, to serve


1. To prepare the mud crab, scrub the outside with a brush under cold running water. Place the crab on its back on a chopping board, then lift up the flap/tail. Pull this away from the crab’s body, then turn the crab over and pull out the long grey ‘dead man’s fingers.’ Carefully scrape out the green-brown matter surrounding the liver (also called the ‘mustard’) and set aside; leave the liver in place but remove any other innards.
2. Cut the crab in half lengthwise through the head, then remove the claws and legs and cut the body into two pieces.
3. Using the flat side of a cleaver or a large heavy-bladed knife, gently crack the crab claws and legs so they cook more evenly and are easier to eat. Rinse them under cold running water.
4. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat. Working in batches, fry the crab pieces for 2-3 minutes, then remove and drain on paper towels.
5. Mix together the reserved ‘mustard,’ egg, tamarind juice, oyster sauce, sesame oil and sugar and set aside.
6. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over high heat in a clean wok, then add the chopped garlic and cook for 15-20 seconds. Add the onion and chili and cook for 1-2 minutes or until the onion is translucent.
7. Add the tamarind and egg mixture to the wok, then bring to a boil and simmer until slightly reduced and sticky. Add the crab pieces and herbs and toss for 5 minutes to coat with the sauce and heat through. Serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4 as part of a shared feast | Prep Time: 25 minutes | Cook Time: 10 minutes (in batches)