Crabs provide so much culinary pleasure for me and they easily make the list of my top 5 foods I couldn’t live without. One of my all-time favourite meals to indulge in is a massive, messy pile of delicious crab – great when devoured at restaurants; but most preferably done at home, with a very small group of close family and friends, slowly, meticulously and systematically devouring every last morsel of tasty, tasty crab flesh.
I’ve eaten my fair share of crab, from mud crabs, spanner crabs, blue swimmers, shore crabs, stone crabs, shanghai hairy crabs, Alaskan king crabs and more in a variety of cooking methods and sauces. I’ve now consumed enough now to really feel I know which crabs I personally like the most and the best flavours to compliment them. On a recent trip to the Hunter with a small group of wine buff friends, I cooked up a crab feast and shared some of my favourite ways to eat crab.
No crab feast of mine would be complete without Alaskan king crab! I’ve posted about this delectable species before but I just think the intense sweet flavour of Alaskan king crab is so worth raving about. If you love crab but haven’t tried this – you’re missing out. It’s pure, unadulterated crab – best enjoyed in the most natural state possible: cooked and simply dressed with a squeeze of fresh lemon.
Whilst I’d love nothing more than to gorge myself excessively on a monstrous pile of Alaskan king crab, unfortunately it is a pricey creature, sold at generally inelastic market price of $46 – 48/kg. So we’re having it for entree instead – a leg per person, which works out at a more reasonable fee of $9 per person. Sounds pricey still for a leg, but unlike other crabs – with these generous animals you don’t pay for any heavy carapace. The shell is light & flexible and jam-packed with large steak like crab fillets. It needs to be eaten to be believed, crab lovers.
The rest of the crab feast was intended to be a big mud crab bonanza, but little did I know it is currently not mud crab season, and from about July – October, the tasty critters are in hiding in preparation for mating during the warmer months and are thus in scarce supply. They were as expensive as the decidedly more premium Alaskan king crab harvested from the treacherous heaving waters of the Bering sea, fetching a phenomenal $48/kg!! I couldn’t bring myself to pay that much for heavy shells so we opted for green (uncooked) blue swimmer crabs – a veritable steal at $17/kg! Blue swimmers are fiddly and their flesh quantity to the work required to get flesh ratio is low, but the flesh is sweet and tasty and patience is well rewarded.
The blue swimmers were cleaned, their gills and carapaces removed, the legs broken in single pieces and cracked to ensure the sauces they would be cooked in will seep through thoroughly. (For thorough instructions on choosing and cleaning crab, see my salt and pepper crab post here)
We decided to cook them 2 ways – the first was in a Hong Kong-style Typhoon Shelter sauce; a lip-smackingly garlicky, spicy concoction that we buy pre-bottled direct from the famous Hee Kee store every time either we or friends stopover in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, as it is pre-bottled I don’t have the recipe to share (although I intend to figure it out myself one day!).
The second option for our crab feast is our recipe of the ever-popular Singapore chilli crab. It’s inspired by the Singapore chilli crab we tried at Seri Nonya, the popular Malaysian restaurant in Miranda, first introduced to us by our friend Dr Sue. We tried their recipe and whilst we found it tasty, it was too sweet and not nearly spicy enough for our tastebuds so this is our heavily adapted, adulterated version designed with the intention of having a copious amount of sauce to crab ratio.
Singapore Chilli Crab
(Heavily adapted from Seri Nonya’s Singapore Chilli Crab recipe)
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 4 crabs, cleaned (use 1 blue swimmer or 0.5kg mud crab pp)
- 1 bulb garlic, diced
- 4 tbsp ginger, grated
- 1 cup lemongrass (white part only), very finely diced (about 4 stalks)
- 1 brown onion, diced
- 4 birds eye chillies (use 1 pp, more if you prefer it spicy)
- 1 700g jar of passata
- 1 tbsp grated palm sugar
- 1 egg beaten lightly
- 1 cup fish or chicken stock
- 3 tbsp oil
- salt to taste
- 1 cup of sliced spring onions (green section) to garnish
- 1 cup of Thai basil to garnish
- sticky rice or toasted bread to serve
1. Heat oil in large wok or pot. Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, onion and chillies and fry on low heat until fragrant and the onion turns transparent. Add the passata, stock, sugar and salt to taste.
2. When the mix comes to the boil, add the crab and mix to cover crab.
3. Allow to simmer, cover and stir occasionally for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size and amount of crab used. (Mud crabs will take an extra 5 minutes).
4. Turn off the heat, add the beaten egg to sauce and mix well. Serve with toast or sticky rice to mop up the sauce.
We descended on the crab like seagulls diving for chips and the noisy excitement was soon replaced by just the sound of noisy, wet excited eating, and the occasional loud cracking of crab shells.
And given the Asian theme, we paired it with some of our favourite Asian salads – a green mango salad, green papaya salad (som tum) and sticky rice. The crunchy texture of the salads, the fresh herby flavours and spicy kick complement the crab very nicely.
And with all that leftover sauce, the only thing to do is to frugally save every last spoonful – don’t even think of throwing it away! When peppered with morsels of sweet crab flesh it is just moreishly divine with creamy scrambled eggs on toast the next day.
So -do you have a favourite way to eat your crab? Or do you have a favourite Singapore chilli crab recipe? From one crab lover to another – pray do tell your crabby secrets!
Dedicated to Dr Sue, who introduced me to Seri Nonya so many years ago, and who reads my posts in the wee hours of the morning on her iPhone when feeding baby Maya. Congratulations to you both!