Founder of Chilli Crab, Cher Yam Tian, Has Died at Age 90


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You might know chilli crab as the national dish of Singapore, but do you know who invented it?

Because Singapore is so young, the founder of this national dish apparently lived in our lifetime.

Unfortunately, the founder, Mdm Cher Yam Tian, has just passed away at age 90.

How Chilli Crab Was Invented by Cher Yam Tian

You might not know this, but the chilli crab was invented in the 1950s by Mdm Cher Yam Tian. Her husband, Mr Lim, would catch crabs along the East Coast Beach, and bring them home for dinner. Being born to Teochew families, they were used to eating plain steamed crabs.

And apparently, her husband was bored of that too. One day, Mr Lim asked her to change things up a little. She then started stir-frying the crabs, adding in bottled chilli and tomato sauce.

Friends loved the dish so much that they told her to start selling the dish.

So Mdm Cher went from cooking chilli crab in her kitchen to selling it from a pushcart. Then a stall on Upper East Coast Road. And finally, 15 years after creating her initial recipe, she opened the Palm Beach restaurant—which was very successful.

Now, her son, Roland Lim, is running the restaurant, and it’s now called Roland Restaurant located at Marine Parade.

However, the version of chilli crab that we are most familiar with was created by Hooi Kok Wai of Dragon Phoenix restaurant (who also created Yu Sheng!). He modified Mdm Cher’s original recipe to include eggs, vinegar, sambal, lemon juice, and tomato paste, although we mainly remember the additional of the eggs.

Founder of Chilli Crab in S’pore, Cher Yam Tian, Has Died at Age 90

According to a Facebook Post by ieatishootipost, Mdm Cher has just passed away.


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In the post, Dr Leslie (founder of ieatishootipost) said that she would have turned 90 this year.

In an article, it’s revealed that Mdm Cher didn’t just invent the iconic chilli crab: she also created the Tau You Prawns (Soy Sauce Prawns), which is available in her restaurant, though.

Mdm Cher and her husband have migrated to Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1985, after selling off part of their restaurant shares and leaving the remaining shares to their son.

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Featured Image: Roland Restaurant