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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Cua Rang Muoi Tieu, Me, Gung, Hanh, Toi (Vietnamese Salt and Pepper Crab with Tamarind, Ginger, Scallions, and Garlic)

Cua Rang Muoi 1

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.

Cua Rang Muoi 2

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.

Cua Rang Muoi 3

Pull off the abdominal flaps and toss them. That's where their intestines and anus are located.

Cua Rang Muoi 4

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.

Cua Rang Muoi 5

In my hand, you'll see the gills or lungs. Toss those too. They aren't edible.

Cua Rang Muoi 6

Then cut the crabs in half. Use your bare hands if you wish.

Cua Rang Muoi 7

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 8

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.

Cua Rang Muoi 9

Then add in the green onions, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry until softened.

Cua Rang Muoi 10

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.

Cua Rang Muoi 11

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!

Cua Rang Muoi 12

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.

Cua Rang Muoi 13


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.


  1. That's a hunka'hunka burnin' love...gorgeous crab dish.

  2. Thanks for the primer on crabs.

    I don't really know how to choose crabs. I've seen people trying to pinch the leg, but can't figure out what it is they're looking for or analyzing.

  3. 8 crabs for $14.27 is such a good deal!!! We don't get this kind of crab here, we only have local or imported mud crab from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Aust. I just look those orangey roes. Yummy! I must have crab this weekend! MUST!

  4. i could just have the rice...and lots of it hehehe

    say tamarind, and i am there hehehe

  5. Great recipe! Now I can know the difference of which type of crab it is- male or female. Speaking of crabs, I was at the market yesterday and was poking at a crab (some looked very sleepy), which was at a corner. So, I moved it upside down and back up to the other side of the tank. And then...it kept trying to go back to it's original spot! How cool is that!

    Again, great photos! I somehow have problems of taking good photos these days...

  6. That is a great step by step instruction ... am sure will be helpful to many.I absolutely love crabs .. but never dared to cook them ... but maybe now I can try .. refering to your post. Graet recipe too. :-)

  7. Thou shall not allow the crab gravy/sauce to go to waste. Exactly how I would mop the essence up too!

  8. What great looking crabs.*slurP*

  9. This looks so delish and GREAT step by steps! Thanks.

  10. Mmmmm....yum, yum, yum! This looks awesome and I would love a plate of this for breakfast! especially on my day off! Yeah! I don't work today!! Bring some over to me will ya? You can hang out at my place as long as you bring a plate of this to me! ;)

    I just can't get enough of crab! I've been eating crab at least 3x a week it seems, just can't get enough of it! I made this a few weeks ago with my mom's spicy hot chili's...and, I put waaaay too much spice and just about died!

  11. Peter,
    Haha. Thank you. Thank you very much, said in my best Elvis impersonation.

    Eating Club,
    I think they're looking for a lively crab. You want to make sure they're still kicking!

    I don't think I've ever had mud crab. And not to forget, you have flower crabs too!


    There was plenty of sauce for the rice. Two cups full.

    You disturbed it from its corner. It just wanted to go back.

    I guess if you didn't grow up crabbing and eating them fresh off the ocean like I did, there's lots of people who are unfamiliar with how to go about it all. You should try. I love crab.

    Of course you would. Because we eat alike. :)


    You're welcome. I'm glad it's useful.

    I think chili would be so great with this. Adding extra oomph!

  12. Hands down your site is the single most instructive I have seen...your step by step pics and instructions are absolutely instructive and constructive and I truly learn a lot....these are dishes I would never otherwise, have the opportunity to try let alone see them being done: almost video-like

    Don't stop: and I would love to make a home lobster/crab boil but I am afraid of the lobster...how about a tutorial on a kitchen boil?

  13. All I need now is a big plastic apron a bowl of water for the sticky fingers and I'm ready! I am yearning for this food now!!!!

  14. Blondee47,
    Aww, thanks! You always say the nicest things. Is my shrimp boil what you're talking about? Or did you have something else in mind? I can't afford lobster though!

    Ha! Bibs really are necessary because it gets messy.

  15. A fabulous tutorial, WC. I'm loving all this crabby goodness.

  16. hi wc, this post reminded me that i have a packet of tamarind in my kitchen drawer. did a grilled fish with it and will let u know once i post the finished product ;)

    thanks for the inspiration!

  17. Nikki,
    Thanks! I didn't realize people didn't know how to prepare crabs.

    You're welcome. You've got me cooking with kecap manis so I credit you for inspiring me. :)

  18. ugh! u touched the gills and anus! :P ha ha ha! very interesting...yes waaayyy too much work for me

  19. Van,
    You missed out lady. I wouldn't have made you do the work, just come to eat. :)


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