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The Woman who put Chilli Crab and Singapore on the World Map

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The Woman who put Chilli Crab and Singapore on the World Map
Chilli crab stands tall as one of Singapore’s most recognisable national dishes, often receiving rave reviews from the international foodie community.
We look back to the history of the dish after the passing of the hawker and matriarch believed to be its inventor, Cher Yam Tian, on Wednesday (15 Feb). She passed at the age of 90.
The Woman who put Chilli Crab and Singapore on the World Map - Chilli crab
Credits: Roland Restaurant
Chilli crab was born along Kallang River
The story of chilli crab, according to various media reports, goes like this: Cher’s husband, Lim Choon Ngee, habitually brought home crabs he caught from the sea, which she would then steam.
In an effort to keep their dinners interesting, she soon began stir-frying the crustaceans – first with tomato sauce, then chilli sauce. The latter proved to be a hit, and the couple started hawking the dish from a makeshift stall along Kallang River.
They quickly upgraded it to a full-fledged eatery along Upper East Coast Road named Palm Beach Seafood Restaurant in the ’60s. That was where Roland Lim, the second of their four children, joined the business.
The Woman who put Chilli Crab and Singapore on the World Map - Roland Lim and Mum
Roland Lim with his mother in 2012
Credits: Roland Restaurant
In good hands
After selling off that restaurant and a short stint away in New Zealand, Cher’s closely guarded chilli crab recipe is now in the hands of Roland, who has run the eponymous Roland Restaurant in Marina Parade since 2000.
Naturally, chilli crab is still a signature at the seafood joint, as are other crowd favourites like black sauce prawns and chilli cockles.
Today, the dish can be found at almost any zi char restaurant – an indication of the indelible mark that Cher has left on the Singaporean food scene.

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