I love cooking seafood, but I don’t always get the chance because of the number of vegetarians in my house. So when I do prepare seafood, I make a point of getting the freshest ingredients I can, and today that was crab.
Cua rang muối is one of my favorite recipes for preparing crab. The Vietnamese name literally translates to ”crab toasted (roasted) in salt crust”. The preparation is quite messy but the cooking time is fairly fast. The main ingredients are whole crabs (of course), freshly cracked black pepper, coarse sea salt, garlic, jalapeño chile peppers, green onions and tapioca starch. When cooked properly, the strong smell of seafood shouldn’t bother anyone around with a seafood phobia. And for those of you who love seafood as much as I do, you’re in for a treat!
Don’t they look like dentist tools?
1. Info for Cua Rang Muoi (Vietnamese Salted Crab Recipe)
- Cook Time: 30
- Total Time: 50
- Servings: 8
- Calories: 203
2. Ingredients for Cua Rang Muoi (Vietnamese Salted Crab Recipe)
- 6 whole fresh crabs
- 4 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 2 kaffir lime leaves (optional), chopped
- 1-½ tablespoons palm sugar (or granulated sugar)
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1 tablespoon tapioca starch (or corn starch)
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt, to taste
- 2 teaspoons freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- 2 teaspoons jalapeño green pepper (to taste), seeded and cut into small pieces
- 3 green onions, cut into thirds
- 2 limes, freshly squeezed
- 6 sprigs tía tô (see tips)
- Clean the crabs, brush under running water and rinse thoroughly. Separate the 2 main claws from each crab. Set aside.
- Remove and discard the abdominal flaps (the triangle-shaped tail). Lift and separate the back-fin with the rest of the claws by placing a large tablespoon at the bottom of the crab. Remove and discard the ”lungs” (also known as Devil’s fingers; they have a spongy texture); they’re inedible. Gather the liquid, crab ”butter” and corals from the inside of the crabs in a bowl. Discard the main shells.
- Using a cleaver, cut the back-fins in half and slightly crack the claws (see tips). Gather the pieces of crab in a large mixing bowl. Add the garlic powder, chili powder, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Toss well. Marinate for at least 15 minutes.
- In the same bowl containing the crab liquid, combine the kaffir lime leaves (if used) and palm sugar. Set aside.
- Slightly bruise the tía tô (perilla) leaves and coarsely chop them.
- In a wok, heat the oil. Add the yellow onions and cook until slightly golden and fragrant. Add the garlic and finely chopped jalapeño pepper.
- As soon as the garlic is lightly browned, dredge the crab with tapioca starch and immediately add the crab pieces to the wok. Add a teaspoon of salt, jiggle the wok to make sure the crab does not stick to the bottom of the wok and is totally coated with oil and slightly crispy. Add the content of the reserved bowl. Constantly toss the crab to ensure each piece is coated with the sauce. As soon as all the liquid evaporates, add ½ to one cup of water and the green onions. Cover and cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring often. The crab meat should be white and opaque and the liquid should be evaporated as well. Do not over-cook the crab; otherwise the meat will be dry! Un-cover and add the tía tô leaves and the lime juice. Toss the crab and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Season with the remaining salt and cracked pepper.
- Transfer to a large platter. Serve with bowls of jasmine rice on the side.
- Roll up your sleeves, and dig in immediately!
- Note: Don’t forget to serve tall glasses of water; it gets salty after a while .