The Beer Lover's Table: Singaporean Chilli Crab Pasta and Sureshot Brewing Whimmy Wam Wam Wozzle Pilsner

Recently, inspired by the recent tteokbokki à la vodka recipe we made together, my partner and I were riffing on ideas for hybrid dishes - food that doesn’t neatly fit under the slightly naff “fusion” label, but which playfully juxtaposes elements of dishes from different culinary traditions, teasing out surprising moments of overlap or resonance. We stumbled upon an interesting possibility: Could we turn Singaporean chilli crab into a pasta dish?

Singapore’s national dish, chilli crab was created in the 1950s and features mud crabs cooked in a tomato base that’s sweet, salty and a little spicy. There are as many ways to make chilli crab as there are cooks – some thicken the sauce with beaten egg, some avoid it; some use fermented soy bean paste while others leave it out – but the result should always be abundantly saucy and vividly vermillion.

That sauciness and tomato base are what convinced us that this dish’s flavours would work in an Italian context. This recipe begins the way that most chilli crab recipes do – by blending together a foundational paste of aromatics, frying it, then mixing it with the liquid ingredients – but deviates from there.

Instead of using whole crabs, we mixed lump white crab meat directly into the sauce. Served with a short pasta variety (we used the internet-famous cascatelli, but you can choose your own shape), the result was just what we’d hoped for – funky, well-spiced and savoury, with a richness and ample sweetness from the crab meat. To make it feel a bit more Italian, we finished it with dollops of mozzarella, as well as a scattering of herbs: not basil or parsley this time, but coriander.

Lager is the natural choice for a dish like this and Sureshot’s Whimmy Wam Wam Wozzle Pilsner more than brings the party. Named for a Futurama reference (you’ll want to watch the whole episode about the gang’s trip to the Slurm Factory), it’s brewed with floral Tettnanger hops that give it zip and freshness, and complement its toasty malt profile. Have this beer and pasta together and you can almost convince yourself that you’ve teleported somewhere humid, tropical and altogether faraway…

Singaporean Chilli Crab Pasta
Serves 4-6

For the chilli paste:
4 échalion shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1-2 bird’s eye chillis, roughly chopped
2-3 stalks lemongrass, tough outer layers removed, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon belacan fermented shrimp paste
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
Flaky sea salt, to taste

For the pasta:
2 tablespoons tomato purée
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2-3 tablespoons ketchup
1-2 tablespoons white vinegar
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon MSG (optional)
300ml fish stock
350g white lump crab meat
500g short pasta shape of your choosing
1 ball mozzarella in brine, drained and roughly shredded
Fresh coriander, roughly chopped, to garnish

1. First, make the chilli paste. Add the shallots, garlic, ginger, chillis, lemongrass, belacan shrimp paste and vegetable oil to a food processor and blend for several minutes until smooth. (You can add 1 tablespoon of water at a time to help it blend, if necessary.) Taste and add any salt if needed.

2. Place a large frying pan over medium heat; once hot, add the chilli paste. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, or until the paste has lost its raw smell. Add the tomato purée and cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until it is a deep brick red.

3. Next, add the tinned chopped tomatoes, 2 tablespoons ketchup, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1 teaspoon MSG (if using). Stir to combine. Add the fish stock and turn the heat to low. Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the mixture has reduced and thickened, and has a nice, saucy texture. Taste and add any additional vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce or sugar, if needed.

4. Next, add the crab meat to the sauce and mix through. Turn the heat off, cover and set aside.

5. Prepare the pasta according to package instructions, cooking until al dente. Drain and add the prepared chilli crab sauce to the pasta, mixing through until well-combined. Taste and add any additional seasoning if needed.

6. To serve, add the mozzarella pieces to the pasta and mix through until just starting to melt. Divide between bowls and top with the coriander to garnish.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our HB&B All Killer No Filler beer subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings, plus beer reviews and expert tasting notes with up to 12 world-class beers like this one every month.