Hard Crabs Southeast Asian Style

You can do this with picked crab or crab claws, but the best way of all is with whole Lake Pontchartrain crabs cut into quarters. It’s a mess to eat (although no more than eating boiled crabs), and the flavor is incredible. You see this sort of thing in Vietnamese and Thai restaurants.

  • 4 large live Lake Pontchartrain blue crabs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. sesame oil
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup Tabasco soy sauce (or regular soy sauce with 1/2 tsp. Tabasco)
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 Tbs. fish sauce (nuoc mam)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped ripe tomato
  • 8 sprigs cilantro, leaves only, chopped
  • Juice of two limes

1. Cut the claws off the crabs. Cut the crab bodies into quarters, and remove the “dead man fingers.”

2. Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet until it shimmers. Add the garlic cloves and crushed red pepper, and saute until the garlic just begins to brown. Add the crabs and cook until the shells turn red, tossing constantly to let the flavored oil hit all parts of the crab.

3. Remove the crab pieces and set aside. Pour off the excess oil, lower the heat to medium, and add the sesame oil and ginger. Cook until the pan contents are very fragrant, then add the pineapple juice, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Bring to a boil and stir until the liquid is reduced by about a third.

4. Return the crab pieces to the pan and add the tomatoes. Cook for about five minutes, until the crab is heated all the way through. Add the lime juice and cilantro, and serve right away with cold beer.

Serves four.

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