West coast chilli crab an homage to family for this B.C. diver

·3 min read
For the last five, years Andrew Chin has been traveling the world and exploring his interest in underwater photography through free diving. (Nate Slaco - image credit)
For the last five, years Andrew Chin has been traveling the world and exploring his interest in underwater photography through free diving. (Nate Slaco - image credit)

B.C. photographer and diver Andrew Chin had been travelling the world but when the pandemic struck, he had to bring the world back to his childhood home in Port Coquitlam.

Chin, who was based in Hawaii prior to the pandemic, started free diving in the frigid waters of the Pacific Northwest to keep up with the practice he had started back in Polynesia.

"The gear that you need to be able to dive here is quite different. You need double the thickness of a wetsuit to be able to withstand the water here," Chin said. "Not only that, but the visibility is quite poor. Oftentimes, you may only have a foot visibility in the water so it's very, very different than what I'm used to."

An avid spearfisher, Chin decided to start crabbing here.

During the pandemic, Chin began trying to learn more about the Singaporean heritage of both his parents and decided to combine it with the seafood of the Pacific Northwest.
During the pandemic, Chin began trying to learn more about the Singaporean heritage of both his parents and decided to combine it with the seafood of the Pacific Northwest. (Nate Slaco )

"In the Lower Mainland, we are pretty limited to a few species out of the year but most of the year, we tend to be able to go for crab and that tends to be the easiest thing without having to travel a farther distance," he said.

To take it one step further, he cooks the crab in the style of Singaporean chilli crab — an homage to his Singaporean parents and extended family.

"For me, it just takes me back to those childhood trips to Singapore and being with family," he said.

Chin's crab dives are the subject of a new documentary film, shot by filmmaker Nate Slaco, that evokes the genre of "catch and cook" spear-fishing films.

"There's a big culture in free diving and spear fishing where people make these videos called catch-and-cooks where they will go out, catch their fish, catch their crab, come back and cook what they caught," Chin said.

Chin says he finds a great deal of joy from the practice of catching food and cooking it for family.

"It feels like things are coming full circle, and I'm now able to share a dish from my childhood with my nieces, the next generation in our family. The setting may be different, a house in Singapore is now a townhouse in Port Coquitlam, but the feeling of sharing a meal with family stays the same," he said.

Watch the film here:

Chin's family recipe for Singaporean Chilli Crab

Ingredients

  • 1 Dungeness crab

  • 6 Fresno chillies

  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled

  • 3 small shallots, peeled

  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled

  • 1/4 cup neutral vegetable oil

  • 1 cup tomato purée

  • 1 egg

  • 1 lime

  • 1 tbsp of granulated sugar

  • Salt, to taste

  • Fresh cilantro, to serve

  • Steamed rice, to serve

Directions

  1. Clean and prepare the crab. Remove the carapace and the lungs. Discard the lungs. Rinse the crab and clean the inside of the carapace. Break down the crab into quarters.

  2. Prepare the chilli paste. Remove the stems of the chillies, halve lengthwise, and remove the seeds. If you want a spicier end result, do not remove the seeds. To a blender or food processor add the chillies, garlic, shallots, ginger, and oil. Purée into a paste and set aside.

  3. Heat 2 tbsps of oil in a heavy bottom pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chilli paste and fry until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato purée, stirring to combine. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add in 1.5 cups of water and the crab. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook until the crab is bright red and cooked through, about 7 to 8 minutes, stirring halfway.

  4. Remove the crab and transfer to a plate. Add the egg into the sauce and mix to thicken the sauce. Add in the sugar, the juice of the lime, and salt to taste. Pour the sauce over the crab, and garnish with cilantro. Serve with steamed rice.