Normally I prefer Dungeness crabs since that's what I grew up with. I think they're meaty and juicier than any other kind. But rock crabs were only $1.89/lb at the San Gabriel Superstore. So cheap! I bought 8 good-sized crabs for lil' sis's 21st birthday bash and they only cost me $14.27!
Does everyone know how to pick and prepare crabs? If not, here's a primer.
When selecting crabs at the store, make sure it's still moving. That's very important. Hehe. Just poke it a little to make sure since crabs tend to just lay still. Check to see that it still has both claws and all or at least most of its legs.
When you get home, fill your sink with water and immerse the crabs. The water will get murky as the crabs purge themselves of mud and gunk.
Set a pot of water to boil with a generous tblsp of salt. Drop the crabs in when the water boils. Use tongs! Crabs pinch. Boil for 15 minutes and remove the crabs with tongs. Rinse the crabs thoroughly.
Do you know which crabs are male or female? Personally, I think female crabs have sweeter meat, but sometimes they're not always available. Male crab on left, female crab on right. The abdominal flaps are wider on female crabs.
Pull off the abdominal flaps and toss them. That's where their intestines and anus are located.
Place your thumb into the space where you just pulled off the abdomen flap and you can pull the shell from the rest of the crab. The bright red and greenish stuff inside the shell is called the crab butter. You'll want to save that and the juices into a separate bowl.
In my hand, you'll see the gills or lungs. Toss those too. They aren't edible.
Then cut the crabs in half. Use your bare hands if you wish.
Once you've cleaned, scooped out the butter from the shell, removed the gills, and halved the crabs, you're finally ready to cook.
Cua Rang Muoi Tieu, Me, Gung, Hanh, Toi (Vietnamese Salt and Pepper Crab with Tamarind, Ginger, Scallions, and Garlic)
For 4 crabs, you'll need:
4 crabs, cleaned and halved, crab butter reserved in a separate bowl
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2-inch knob ginger, finely minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tblsp tamarind
1 tblsp corn starch
Optional: Rice flour for dusting and frying the crab. Cooked rice for mixing with leftover sauce.
The rang (Vietnamese fried) in the recipe refers to frying the crab. If you'd like to do so, lightly dust the crab with rice flour and quickly fry like in my recipe for Tom Rang Muoi (Vietnamese Shrimp Fried with Salt). Set aside.
I generally don't fry my crab because I think that dries it out and the sauce is where the flavor is anyway.
Finely mince a 2-inch knob ginger, 2 scallions, and 6 cloves garlic. Set aside.
I prefer using a block of seedless tamarind. I just slice off slivers and mash the tamarind with a wooden spoon as it warms up in the pan when I cook with it. You can use tamarind concentrate or dissolve the tamarind in water to make it easier to work with. Whichever method you choose, about 1 tblsp should be sufficient, but taste as you go along since different products have different concentrations.
Fire up your wok, add a few drizzles of oil, and add about 1 tblsp of tamarind. Mash the tamarind as it softens in the pan.
Then add in the green onions, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry until softened.
Add the crab butter, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground black pepper, and 1 tblsp corn starch. I know, for some reason, these crabs had green insides. Red crab butter makes this taste much better. But either way, it's still very tasty! Sprinkle the cornstarch evenly over the mixture so it doesn't clump. If you have difficulty with that, simply dissolve the cornstarch in a bit of cold water first and then add it to the pan. When the sauce starts to thicken, add the crab pieces and mix thoroughly.
Spoon onto a plate, adding some of the sauce over the top of the crab. Try dipping French bread into the sauce, it's delicious! Don't be shy. Dig in and eat with your hands!
Don't let the extra sauce go to waste. Add the cooked rice into the pan and mix thoroughly. Serve this too or save for later.
1 year ago today, a plane to, a helicopter down, and a boat ride up the Colorado River in Grand Canyon West - Hualapai Nation - Peach Springs - Arizona.