Seafood lovers – what if we told you that you don’t have to wait until special occasions or the next group gathering before you get to enjoy chilli crab?
Childhood friends Danial Azroy and Hasyim “Syimmy” Hasbullah, both 32, are out to challenge the idea that chilli crab is expensive and can only be enjoyed in big portions, with their new home-based business and movement, Killakrabsg.
Their inspiration dates back to 8 years ago, when they were travelling together in Bali. Their driver, Putu, had generously invited them to his home for dinner with his family. When they arrived, Putu and his wife were still preparing the food.
Looking at the fresh crabs in the kitchen, an idea struck Danial. Why not cook for them Singapore’s famous chilli crab, which the couple had never tried before? With whatever ingredients available in Putu’s pantry, he tried his best to replicate his mother’s recipe.
“The taste was a bit different, but it was close,” recalled Syimmy. Putu and his wife enjoyed the meal, and Danial and Syimmy flew home with fond memories of bonding over a cultural exchange of food with Putu’s family during their holiday.
Bringing Killa Krabs to life
Fast forward to 2020 – the Covid-19 pandemic had affected both their jobs badly. Danial is a flight steward with FinnAir, and Syimmy a wedding planner with RH Bridal. With flights and wedding receptions severely restricted, the pair found temporary gigs as a safe distancing ambassador and dorm operator respectively.
The unusual circumstances led them to dream up ideas for their own small business. What if they brought back the Putu-chilli crab experience and created affordable chilli crab in small portions for individuals to savour?
This would be their second business collaboration. They had successfully sold shoes together during one of the previous Ramadhan. Satisfied with their sales and convinced that they worked well with each other, they launched Killakrabsg by leveraging Syimmy’s flair for graphic design and marketing, and Danial’s cooking skills.
Danial credits his grandmother and mother for teaching him how to cook.
“Being the only child, I have to survive at home right. Besides cooking noodles and whatever that’s easy, I usually get recipes from my grandmum. I saw how she cooked… her onion, garlic, and ginger. Whatever you throw in, you can whip up something,” he shared.
“This chilli crab, it’s my mum’s recipe. My dad is a heavy crab eater. Pretty much every week I’d see my mum cook them.”
Danial’s mum — whom Syimmy affectionately refers to as their head chef who “cooks really well” — is more into Chinese cooking. The influence comes from her colleagues, who would prepare for her halal versions of zi char food such as prawn noodles and beef noodles.
It follows that Killakrabsg’s chilli crab sauce is what they deem the authentic Chinese style, where the sauce is distinctively sweet and only mildly spicy. The sweetness comes naturally from the crabs.
“We’re trying to educate people that chilli crab is supposed to taste like this. But we also understand that the Malay community prefers a spicier version,” explained Danial. “We’ll see lah, if Malays really want it to be spicy, we’ll probably have a spicy level, but that will be a trial and error. We cannot satisfy every palate.”
Keeping things fresh
Killakrabsg currently runs on a pre-order basis, and for dinner only. Orders are collated from Mondays to Thursdays, and then delivered on Saturdays and Sundays after 5.00pm.
Their menu mainly consists of three packages – The Gloria, The Manny, and The Dunphys. The Gloria and The Manny, $25 each, are for one pax (although Syimmy whispered that two people could probably share them). The difference is that The Gloria comes with two pieces of soft-shell crabs and The Manny, one bowl of mud crabs. The Dunphys ($75) are for three to four pax, and come with both soft-shell and mud crabs. All three options are served with their signature chilli crab sauce and complemented with fried mantou, which they call “Killa buns”.
To ensure maximum freshness, Danial only buys the crabs on the morning of the orders.
On weekends, after completing his safe distancing ambassador shifts at 2.00pm, Danial rushes over to his seafood supplier’s shop to collect the crabs then heads home to cook them. After cleaning and chopping the crabs, he takes around half an hour to whip up the sauce just in time for collection. Danial prepares his ingredients earlier in the week to spread out the workload.
The Killakrabsg team plans to focus on offering crabs only, although they may eventually venture to other flavours such as butter, black pepper, and salted egg crabs.
Looking ahead, Danial is also exploring options for renting a small kitchen where he can have bigger cooking equipment. He cites space constraints as one of his current challenges of running a home-based business.
As for Syimmy, some of his bigger obstacles include gaining credibility and growing their community. There were also many things that they’ve had to learn on the fly, such as how to produce their packaging materials and package their food.
But one area where his past experiences have come in handy is graphic design. He previously studied marketing in university and managed RH Bridal’s social media accounts, which have made it easier for him to work on Killakrabsg’s branding and online engagement.
Take a quick glance at their Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/killakrabsg/), and you’ll see sleek graphics with stylish visuals and an intentional colour palette. Syimmy keeps up with marketing and design trends by watching YouTube tutorials and learning from other graphic designers on Behance, an online community where creators showcase their works.
The pair takes their branding seriously, and hope to expand into merchandising in the future.
Creating an ecosystem for family and friends
Another vision for Killakrabsg is to create an ecosystem where they could give their family and friends some business. Observing that many people were looking for side hustles during the pandemic, the duo ropes in their friends to run their delivery jobs. Their seafood supplier and printing company are also from their personal networks.
This ties in to their slogan, “Let’s break bread and be part of the Killa Krab Fam!” To break bread means to bond like family over a meal, just like they had done with Putu back in Bali. And for them, breaking bread also means helping their friends and families add to their livelihood.
And as for the Modern Family references in their menu items?
“It’s a family-oriented show, and something that we both watch,” explained Syimmy. “It’s how we wanted our menu to be: funny, quirky, and heartwarming.”
To place an order, visit them at @killakrabsg and fill out their order form.
Images by Killakrabsg.