Header image courtesy of Greenland Spicy Crab
Originally published by Ching Yuen. Last updated by Annette Chan.
When it comes to Hong Kong chilli crab, we don’t just mean any kind of crab served with chilli. We’re really referring to one of Hong Kong’s most iconic dishes: typhoon shelter-style fried crab, where meaty crabs are fried in a generous mixture of minced garlic, fermented soybeans, chilli pepper, and lemongrass. This particular dish used to be a favourite of Tanka fisherfolk before local street stalls adapted it from the boats and made it available on land.
While typhoon shelter seasoning is now used in dishes throughout the city—from chicken wings to hot pot and even fusion pasta—sometimes, you just crave the OG recipe. Read on to find out where to get the best authentic typhoon shelter-style chilli crabs!
To enjoy typhoon shelter crab the way it was originally intended to be eaten—on a boat, in an actual typhoon shelter—ring up the good folks at Shun Kee (信記避風塘海鮮美食), one of the last old-school floating restaurants. It’s not a fancy establishment—the tablecloth is a plastic bag, and let’s just say you should go to the bathroom before getting on the boat—but there is something truly magical about bobbing in your own private sampan, looking at the glittering lights of Causeway Bay and digging into freshly prepared seafood.
There is an à la carte menu, but the best bang for your buck can be found in the set meals (starting from $1,080) which accommodate parties from two to 12 people and contain all the greatest hits—spicy and garlicky crab, razor clams and vermicelli doused in ginger sauce, supreme soy sauce noodles, and poached prawns. Do note that the restaurant does not sell alcohol, so you will have to bring your own if you plan on drinking!
Shun Kee, Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter | (+852) 8112 0075
While not technically inside a cooked food market, this eatery between Causeway Bay and Wan Chai reminds us of a dai pai dong-style stall, with a rowdy and welcoming atmosphere, cold beers, and delicious, affordable seafood. Although we do have a soft spot for the fried crab with ginger & spring onion, the typhoon shelter-style fried crabs with garlic & chilli (which is also listed as fried crab with curry on the menu) is our favourite. The homemade seasoning mix is packed with flavour and texture, with a spice level that is just enough to bring the heat without being difficult to eat in large quantities. While you can get a small crab for less than $200, the large crab—which costs $580—is both tastier and easier to extract from the shell.
Kui Kee Seafood Restaurant, Shop B, 16 Bowrington Road, Wan Chai | (+852) 2838 8998
For delicious spicy crab in Kowloon City, head to Chong Kee Spicy Crab (松記辣蟹). Although typically frequented by students and nearby office workers for its affordable $50 lunch sets, Chong Kee’s speciality is in its name—spicy crab. The titular crustacean comes piled high with deep golden garlic, and plenty of red chillis and spring onions in the mix to pack a super flavourful punch. The cost depends on the market price that day, so it can sometimes be a little higher than the average meal in the area—but we promise it’s worth it.
Chong Kee Spicy Crab, 63 Fuk Lo Tsun Road, Kowloon City | (+852) 2716 1982
While we love digging into a huge chilli crab, fresh seafood can often end up costing a pretty penny—especially for the more sizeable crustaceans. This bright and spacious restaurant in Shek Tong Tsui prides itself on cooking only fresh, seasonal produce (hence the name). Not only does Tasty and Seasonal Restaurant (百味鮮辣蟹專門店) deliver in terms of comfort and cleanliness, but it also offers one of the most affordable fresh chilli crabs we’ve seen in town, with a very respectably sized typhoon shelter crab
costing just $380. With those prices—and the lighter-than-usual seasoning—you could easily get two crabs for the table.
Tasty and Seasonal Restaurant, Shop 4, G/F, Kwan Yick Building Phase 1, 434 Des Voeux Road West, Shek Tong Tsui | (+852) 2817 1477
Crab speciality restaurants are more concentrated in Causeway Bay due to its proximity to the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter, but let’s not forget about the Kowloon side and its hidden treasures! Hing Kee Restaurant (避風塘興記) is one of the oldest crab restaurants in Kowloon; while there is no actual menu with prices, you can simply point at the pictures and tell the staff how many portions you want. There are varying degrees of spiciness you can order for your chilli crab, ranging from little spice and medium spice to hot spice, intense spice, and crazy spice, with slightly different price points for each. Not sure how much heat you can handle? We would recommend starting with something on the modest side for you to really enjoy the natural flavours of the crab!
Hing Kee Restaurant, 1/F, Po Wah Comm Building, 180 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2722 0022
As the most famous crab speciality restaurant in Hong Kong where all the tourists, celebrities, and locals congregate, Under Bridge Spicy Crab needs little introduction. The restaurant is reminiscent of Hong Kong food stalls of old, and their signature spicy crab is the archetypal example of all typhoon shelter-style dishes. You can never be too sure of how much you will spend for a meal here, as all the chilli crab dishes are sold based on market prices, but you can customise the portions you order, and you can also choose how spicy you want the dish to be, ranging from no spice at all to super spicy. Be sure to dip your crab meat into the crunchy fried garlic side for a fun textural contrast and to enhance the freshness of the tender crab meat.
Under Bridge Spicy Crab, 391 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay | (+852) 3619 7268
Over at Greenland Spicy Crab (翠林辣蟹舫), they have set prices for their chilli fried crab ($588), which is served on a Chinese-style sharing platter with the crab sitting neatly on top of a mountain of fried garlic. The best—and meatiest—parts of the crab are their front claws, and luckily, they are also the easiest to break, so you can put in minimum effort for maximum reward. One chilli crab can be shared between two or three people, too, so you can weigh your chances of scoring the claw!
Greenland Spicy Crab, Shop A, 1/F, Astoria Building, 24–38 Ashley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2628 9888
Hee Kee Fried Crab Expert Limited (喜記避風塘炒辣蟹) is one of Hong Kong’s oldest and most respected crab establishments, serving up freshly caught crabs since the 1980s. Hee Kee used to be a restaurant on a fishermen’s boat that was docked by the harbour near Causeway Bay, but the government has since passed several laws to improve the city’s food hygiene, forcing Hee Kee to move its restaurant services onto land. In 1997, they finally settled down on Jaffe Road. Their chilli crabs are set to seasonal prices and weighed for each table, so you will have to see how much to order depending on how many people you bring with you.
Choi Kee does many versions of fried crab, such as fried crab in spring onion & ginger, crab & green melon stir-fried in spicy herbs, and fried crab in curry paste, to name a few. However, to get a taste of the most authentic (and most delicious) recipe, we would recommend trying the deep-fried crab with chilli & garlic, which is, of course, based on the famed typhoon shelter style. All are sold at market price, so it’s difficult to predict how much you will spend. If you are a fan of crab roe, then don’t forget to dig into the crab’s shell, where you can find most of the roe. Most restaurants tend to use meatier crabs in typhoon shelter-style dishes, but occasionally, you will find some pieces of hard crab roe on the corners of the shell with all the wonderful garlic flavours mixed in.
Choi Kee Chilli Crab, Shop G&H, G/F, 392–402 Jaffe Road, Causeway Bay | (+852) 2234 0888
Hee Kee Crab General (喜記蟹將軍) is one of the more modern establishments where you can find authentic typhoon shelter-style fried crab in Hong Kong. It offers plenty of seafood dishes, such as the authentic chilli fried crab ($550) served with generous spices. If you are looking to order more dishes to round out the spread, you can opt for one of their many seafood set menus, which usually includes signature dishes such as the authentic chilli fried crab, stir-fried clams, seasonal vegetables, and also stir-fried noodles—perfect for sharing.
Hee Kee Crab General, Shop 602, 6/F, iSquare, 63 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2366 7565
If you are looking for a crab restaurant that’s all about heat, then Qi-Nine Dragons should satisfy you. All of the dishes are spice-orientated since the concept is based on Sichuan cuisine and their love for fiery foods. The chilli fried Canadian Dungeness crab ($780) is a pleasant alternative to Hong Kong’s typhoon shelter style since they deep-fry each piece of crab meat in batter before serving it on a bed of fried spices. Served conveniently like this, you will not have to get your fingers dirty digging into each crab shell and picking out morsels of meat!
Qi-Nine Dragons, 20/F, Prince Tower, 12A Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2799 8899