Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Salt and Pepper Crab (Cua Rang Muoi)

Salt and pepper crab known as cua rang muối in Vietnamese is one of the popular dishes in Vietnam, and typically made with much larger crabs. According to my mother the poor people in Vietnam make this dish using the rice paddy crabs or rice-field crabs. The entire body is eaten whole but not the legs or claws as they are generally too tough. When making this using hard-shell green crabs it is best to eat only the center part of the body that has the flesh and cartilage. The legs and claws may be too hard to ingest whole. It is best if you can find semi-hard shell ones. This dish tends to be a little more salty than normal and it is consumed along with plain steamed rice and extra vegetables. I served the crabs over a bed of red cabbage and fresh mint salad. For this recipe I prefer to use smaller green crabs, those less than 1 1/2 inches across the carapace.

salt and pepper crab (cua rang muối)

Salt and Pepper Crab (Cua Rang Muối)

Ingredients:

35 small (1 to 1 1/2-inches) green crabs, prepared, washed, drained
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black or white pepper
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
1/8 tsp sugar
Oil for deep frying
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and cut into wedges
1/3 cup chopped green scallions
1 large garlic clove, peeled, finely grated
3/4 tsp Salt and Pepper Seasoning (see recipe below)

Method:

Prepare the crabs as usual but leave the roe and crab mustard (orange and yellow matter) intact in the bodies. Remove and discard the carapace, gills, mouth piece, apron, intestine, and pointy distal legs. To clean the crabs sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of salt to the prepared crabs and gently rub them. Rinse in cold water 2-3 times to remove the salt. Let them drain in a strainer.

Use a 1-gallon bag or a large container with a lid, mix cornstarch, salt, pepper, turmeric powder, and sugar. Shake the bag or whisk the contents in the container to mix all ingredients. Add the prepared crabs in the bag or container. Shake to coat the crabs with seasoned flour. Heat the oil until it is around 350 to 375 degrees F. May test the oil by dropping in a leg. If the leg sizzles and fries quickly then the oil is hot and ready. Add about 5 crabs at a time to the oil. Fry until they are golden, about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes and remove them onto paper towels to remove excess oil.

In a large pan or wok add about 2 teaspoons of oil. Once the oil is hot add onion, scallions, and garlic. Saute about a minute or until the onion is cooked to your preference. Add the fried crabs. Add a little of the Salt and Pepper Seasoning in at a time. Stir and add more of the seasoning. Repeat this process until the seasoning has been used up. Serve over a bed of Cabbage and Mint Salad (see recipe below).

Salt and Pepper Seasoning

Ingredients:

1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black or white pepper
1/4 tsp sugar

Method:

Mix all ingredients.

Cabbage and Mint Salad

Ingredients:

About 1/2 small red cabbage, finely shredded
10-15 large fresh mint leaves, julienned
Juice from 1/2 fresh lime

Method:

Mix all ingredients right before serving.

Helpful Hints:

*Generally I would add a little salt and pepper to this salad but since the crabs already have plenty of salt and pepper I omit them for this post. Add more or less mint if you are interested.
*Prepare the ingredients for the Cabbage and Mint Salad and set aside in the refrigerator. Once your crabs are just cooked and still hot quickly mix the salad and serve while the crabs are still warm.

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