Latest Newsletter🍵 Ming-Na Wen honoredRead


Creator of iconic Singaporean chili crab dish dies at 89

rolands restaurant chili crab
via Roland Restaurant

    Asian America Daily - in under 5 minutes

    Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories, to your inbox daily, for free!

    Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive

    Char Yam Tian, creator of the iconic Singaporean chili crab dish, has died at 89. 

    Tian died in her New Zealand home on Wednesday. Her death was confirmed by her granddaughter, Regina Lim, 39, who revealed the cause to be pneumonia that developed from a recent lung infection. 

    Tian is survived by four children, four grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. 

    Tian invented the dish in the 1950s, when she added tomato ketchup and chili sauce to steamed crabs. 

    Her late husband, Lim Choon Ngee, and neighbors fell in love with the invention and Tian continued to alter the recipe until the iconic dish was perfected.

    With this discovery, Tian went from selling chili crabs at a small stall to opening her own restaurant, Palm Beach, in 1963. Despite facing controversies surrounding imitators and the Malaysian minister’s allegations of cultural theft, Tian remained calm and maintained faith that others “know the truth,” her son told The Straits Times.

    Tian’s strict standards continued as her chili crab recipe climbed down the generations of restaurants in her family, including Palm Beach, Sin Leong and Roland Restaurant.

    Even before her death, Tian ensured the restaurant upheld her standards of quality by making spontaneous visits to Roland Restaurant, which is owned by her son, Roland Lim Jr. 

    “She would drop by for meals and do a spot check on the chefs and my dad,” Roland told Yahoo Southeast Asia. “They would be on their toes because they know she is there to check on them.”

    As her health deteriorated, Tian continued her persistent quality control checks by requesting takeout at random times. 

    Today, Tian’s legacy is continued through her sons Roland, 65, and Richard Lim, 60, who continue to work at Roland Restaurant. Now serving four generations of customers who continue to express their love for Tian’s iconic dish, Tian will continue to remain in the hearts of many. 


    Support our Journalism with a Contribution

    Many people might not know this, but despite our large and loyal following which we are immensely grateful for, NextShark is still a small bootstrapped startup that runs on no outside funding or loans.

    Everything you see today is built on the backs of warriors who have sacrificed opportunities to help give Asians all over the world a bigger voice.

    However, we still face many trials and tribulations in our industry, from figuring out the most sustainable business model for independent media companies to facing the current COVID-19 pandemic decimating advertising revenues across the board.

    We hope you consider making a contribution so we can continue to provide you with quality content that informs, educates and inspires the Asian community. Even a $1 contribution goes a long way.  Thank you for everyone's support. We love you all and can't appreciate you guys enough.

    Support NextShark

    Mastercard, Visa, Amex, Discover, Paypal