Lemon Myrtle & Chilli Mud Crabs

In the early 1900’s the Malaysian, Singaporeans, Japanese and Chinese pearl divers introduced spices to cooking in Australia and in Broome for the locals this meant a new way to honour the mighty mud crabs.

Chilli mud crabs are famous around the northwest Kimberley region of Western Australia, and everyone has their own secret recipe for making the best tasting dish. For some boiling in saltwater is enough, but when meat soaks up flavour the way mud crab does, why not give it flavour to soak? So, inspired by the Broome culture and history, we think chef Samantha Martin is on to a winner with her pairing of native lemon myrtle and a hint of chilli.

Give it a go yourself, either at home or over the campfire.


And if you’re looking for more great recipes using native ingredients, follow Samantha’s Bush Tukka Woman pages on Facebook and Instagram.


2 whole live mud crabs
1 whole onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
5 dried whole chillies
1/3 cup of peanut oil
2 cans of diced tomatoes
2 tbsp of palm sugar
2 tbsp of curry powder
5 lemon myrtle leaves, dried or fresh
½ cup vegetable stock

Cleaning and preparing mud crab

  1. Humanely kill the crab either by putting it in the freezer for 20 minutes or putting it in an ice slurry for 30 minutes
  2. Clean the shell of the crab under running water.
  3. Lift the tail flap and push your thumb under the top shell near the flipper and pull the shell off the crab.
  4. Remove the gills, guts and mouthpart away from the body, rinse out any muck and sand from the inside.
  5. Remove the claws from the body.
  6. Crack each portion of the claws with something hard or the back of a knife – just enough to be able to access the meat when cooked.
  7. Cut the middle of the mud crab in half and then cut two legs per piece off the bodies.


  1. Heat peanut oil, diced onions and dried chillies in a large wok or frying pan until onions starts to become transparent.
  2. Add curry powder, lemon myrtle leaves and garlic and stir well.
  3. Add canned tomatoes and palm sugar, add liquid vegetable stock and bring to the boil.
  4. Add your well-chopped mud crab pieces and stir the crabs so it is covered in sauce.
  5. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until crab shells starts to turn a vibrant orange colour.
  6. Serve up in a dish with crusty hot bread.
WA Coast

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