Friday, April 26, 2019

Salted Green Crabs (Ba Khia)

Salted or fermented crabs, known as ba khía in Vietnamese, is a way to preserve a special type of small crabs found in muddy areas in the mangroves without the need of refrigeration. Ba khía is a popular food item in the Mekong Delta (the southern region of Vietnam) such as my former home town of Soc Trang. Because they are salty even just one crab can last a person several meals! If you have nothing else to eat except rice and ba khía you can probably survive on these two items for many months

Prior to eating these crabs there is a special preparation that my family uses. We take the fermented crab crabs apart by removing and discarding the carapaces, gills, and aprons. We wash them in warm water several times and break each crab body into 4-6 sections. We then mix the prepared crabs with lime juice, garlic, chili peppers and sugar. This seasoned ba khía lasts weeks in the refrigerator. According to my father if you use vinegar instead of lime juice you can keep it longer. Since it is very salty I eat only a tiny fraction of the crab, usually 2-3 legs with about 1/8 to 1/4 of the body with lots of steamed rice.

salted green crabs (ba khia)
Salted Green Crabs (Ba Khía)


4 cups water
1/2 cup sea salt
10 green crabs (preferably females)
1/2 cup rice wine (optional)


Boil the water and add sea salt, stir until the salt dissolves. Let the liquid cool completely. Wash the crabs well and let them drain. Place the crabs in a glass or ceramic jar. Pour the cooled salted liquid over the crabs. May add rice wine if using. May use a small glass or ceramic plate to keep the crabs submerged in the liquid. Cover tightly and keep refrigerated up to 2 months. The crabs will be salty and ready to eat in 5 days.

Helpful Hints:

*My father advises adding rice wine (such as sake) to the batch for extra fragrance.
*The uncooked salted crab meat should taste salty with a gelatinous consistency. The salted green crab meat may slowly dissolve to nothing if you keep them longer than 2-3 months.
*I prefer to ferment female crabs as I can use them in more dishes. 
*Use only freshly caught crabs as they have more meat.

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