In my seafood endeavors crab has always been something I’ve wanted to cook. However stores here don’t sell whole crabs, only frozen crab legs and that makes sense since Botswana is land locked. But the Chinese love their seafood! Lo and behold I found a bucket of dead crabs in a Chinese grocery store at Oriental Plaza. I have no idea how they get it here but I assume it’s imported from our neighbor South Africa. They also have squid and other squiggly things…yes I don’t know what the other stuff I saw is.
The crabs are sold dead and defrosted in the store. They don’t like to freeze their seafood as they prefer it fresh. An easy way of knowing if it’s spoiled is the smell. If you can smell the crab at arms length without moving it close to your nose then chances are it is spoiled. Crab does not stink. If you leave the crab in a bowl in the kitchen and the room is immediately filled with a fishy stench, throw it away. I had to hold it very close to my nose to smell it and even then it was a faint fish like scent. A few other tell tale signs include:
- the color of the crab meat. It should be white with a slight pink/red tinge where the meat and the shell meet. Any other colour and it is spoiled.
- The texture of the meat. It should feel moist but not slimy.
- When boiled the shell should turn a bright red/orange colour. Any other colour is a bad thing.
It’s best to eat the crab immediately after purchase just to be safe. If you are in a country where you can buy them alive, that’s even better. I probably not be able to buy them alive though, I don’t do well with living sea creatures that have beady eyes….
I happened to have a can of coconut cream so I decided to use it with the crab. I didn’t do anything too complex with the crab, I just washed it and then boiled it for about 20-30 mins in salt water then let it cool.
To drain the water out of the crab you let it cool while it’s standing on it’s mouth. I asked a friend who is less freaked out by beady eyed creatures to deshell it for me. It’s quite a task! Took a while because it was our first time and honestly it was a lot of work for very little meat.
After the shell was cleaned I put the crab meet in it and drizzled some lemon juice (hence the yellow tinge the meat has in the picture below) and put it in the oven for a few minutes.
I made a coconut sauce by following this recipe. I didn’t make any changes to the recipe so just follow the link. The only change I made was very small, I replaced the peppers in the recipe with normal bell peppers. Because it has ingredients that go off quickly (coconut cream and heavy cream) the sauce has to be used within 2 days.
I then put together a random meal of roasted pork buns which I had bought at the Chinese grocery store, garlic bread, fried mussels, crab meat and the coconut sauce.
The verdict? I think I need to experiment with crab a little more. However deshelling it was just so much work I’ll probably buy frozen crab legs next time. They will still require some work but legs are easier than dealing with the shell. Next time I pick up a whole crab it will have to be a live one so I can see the difference in the taste of a fresh crab vs a dead one. Crab meat doesn’t have a really strong flavour which means you can really have fun with the accompanying sauces and dishes. It can be made very spicy, left plain or whatever else tickles your fancy. All in all though, as far as seafood goes, I think prawns and fish still win for me.