There is nothing like the flavour of crab freshly cooked. The sweet white meat contrasting with the buttery richness of the brown…
A few years ago, I decided the time had come to cook a live crab for myself, formerly having relied on the fishmonger to provide me with the ‘end’ product. I bought the crab at Brixton market and sat on the bus for my return journey, feeling slightly faint as Gerald (it probably doesn’t help to name them?) moved about within my shopping bag. Once home, I put the bag on the table and went away to seek counsel from the oracle that is Rick Stein for the required method of humane despatch, arriving back into the dining room I saw the bag ‘walking’ across the table (sideways of course).
This wasn’t to be my moment, Gerald was placed lovingly into the bath with a little water to splash about it in. I closed the door on him and closed my mind to the inevitable…..Rocket arrived home and refused to accept my thoughts on the rehoming of Gerald in favour of a humane despatch and a tasty supper. Hypocritically, I joined in and resolved that, if I must eat crab, I should be able to deal with this aspect of life and death.
Subsequently I went on to do fishmonger training and have managed to deal with all aspects of seafood – I still struggle with the desptach of a crab and think of dear Gerald. All that said, there is nothing like the freshest crab meat and the best way to achieve that is definitely to cook them yourself.
I’m about to share the recipe for my sticky and spicy chilli crab noodles. The quantities and ingredients aren’t fixed in stone, it’s one of those recipes that can stand some adjustment based on the content of your cupboards and of course, personal taste. The only stipulation is that this dish can only be truly enjoyed by getting ‘stuck in’ by sucking away at the shells for maxium flavour, and of course mess.
You can cook your own crab for this or just buy a whole cooked crab. ( If cooking your own, put in the freezer for 20 minutes then place in a large pan with several litres of cold water and a small handful of salt, bring to the boil and simmer ( for a 1.5 lb crab simmer about 20 minutes) then remove the crab plunge into iced water to cool.
Our niece, Stitch, gifted us some lovely wine last week and on one of the bottles, the recommendation that it goes well with asian food was enough for us to try it out – I mention this because the Muscadet in question stood up very well to the bold flavours.
A reason to be cheerful, back to the tale….
Ingredients – serves 2
Prepare the crab by pulling off the legs and cracking them with the back of a heavy knife – being really careful not to chop off your fingers ( in fact you can get your fishmonger to this whole thing for you).
Next put your thumbs on the base of the body, at the back of the crab, and push upwards to release it from the carapace.
Pull away and discard the feathers ( lungs) found around the main body and inside of the shell – they are grey and do look like feathers, they are inedible. Press the mouth so that it snaps away from the main shell and pull away the stomach sac.
Now chop the shell into quarters and set all the crab peices aside.
For the sauce
4 spring onions, halved then cut into strips lengthways
3 red chilli’s – ( check for heat, ours were the ‘dutch’ kind that have a medium heat), sliced into rings.
1 medium onion, halved then sliced.
5 cm of ginger finely chopped.
A few blanched broccoli stems – optional
3 table spoons light soy
2 table spoons dark soy
3 table spoons tomato ketchup or chilli ketchup
1 table spoon sugar
1 table spoon rice wine vinegar.
1 tsp salt
4 table spoons water
Sesame seeds, coriander and lime juice to garnish
For the noodles
2 servings of medium egg noodles ( or your own favourite)
A few drops of sesame oil
Plunge the noodles into boiling water and leave to simmer for 2 minutes or according to the pack serving suggestion – drain the noodles and dress with the sesame oil to ensure they don’t stick together then set the noodles aside with the crab.
Finally, wipe the wok with some oil and add the onions, garlic, ginger and spring onions, cook over a medium heat for a minute or two until they begin to soften then add the chilli’s.
Next add the light soy then the dark, the vinegar and the ketchup.
Now add the sugar, water and salt, allow to bubble and thicken until it’s a dark, richly viscous sauce – which will only take a couple of minutes.
You should now have a glossy, thick, slightly sweet, spicy and sour sauce – adjust seasoning / heat to you personal preference.
Toss the crab through the sauce ensuring it is completely coated before removing it, then add the noodles to the same pan and heat them through – finally add the crab back in, toss the crab and noodles together.
Plate the dish adding a squeeze of lime and a sprinkling of coriander – we also added a few raw chilli slices.