This enormous alimango (mud crab) was hand carried from Northern Palawan (Culion, to be exact) and arrived early yesterday. What a fantastic present! It was nice and big and super feisty. After scrubbing off the gunk that is sometimes on the shell, I put it on a scale and it weighed in at about 900 grams, just shy of a kilo. Not the biggest I have seen and cooked (that was about 1.7 kilos) but this was a very nice size indeed. I put him (you can tell the sex of the crab from the shape of its belly flap) in a bowl and took him outside to photograph and he wasnâ€™t happy at all. He tried several times to snap at me and the string tied around the claws was a little loose. After the photo shoot it was back into the kitchen and into the frying panâ€¦
Some cookbooks suggest that you put the crab in the freezer wrapped in a damp towel for 20-30 minutes to put it to â€œsleepâ€ before you kill itâ€¦ this is more humane, they assert. Our cook just turns it over and plunges the tip of a big knife into the softest part of the underbelly to deal what is hopefully a quick lethal blow. But you canâ€™t be too careful as the claws can still chomp on a finger or two despite the stabbing. Next you have to remove the shell and clean out all the guts, gills and gross stuff. Rinse the rest of the crab with water and cut it into generous sized pieces. I like to pound the shells of the claws already before it is cooked to make eating it a little easier to eat. Store in a cold refrigerator until you are ready to cook it. Do not kill the crab more than 2-3 hours before you cook it.
To make chilli crab my way (and I will admit this strays from most Singaporean or Malay versions a little) you need the following ingredients for each kilo of crabs:
Â¼ cup butter (not margarine)
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped peeled ginger, more if you like
Â½ cup chopped white onion, more if you like
1-2 tablespoons of chopped garlic
4-10 chopped sili labuyo, depending on spiciness desired and spiciness of your sili
Generous dashes of rock salt
4-6 cups of tomato sauce with some hot water added if sauce gets too thick (use less if you are cooking say 3 or more kilos of crab as it will be drowning in sauce)
Some bottled chili sauce (not Tabasco, the viscous less intense types)
Shaoxing rice wine (authentic but optional in our house)
1-2 tablespoons chopped coriander (wansoy)
I like to have lots of sauce to mix with my rice, hence the large volume of tomato sauce in this recipe. I have to admit I donâ€™t usually use a recipe for this but throw in stuff by feel â€“ hence the dish differs a bit each time and my family and friends notice it â€“ â€œjust rightâ€, â€œtoo much butterâ€, â€œtoo spicyâ€, â€œnot enough saltâ€, â€œah, perfectâ€, etc. I leave the recipe a bit nebulous so that you can find the balance that truly makes this your own dish. To cook: put a large pan on high heat and when hot throw in the butter, then the ginger seconds after and sautÃ© a bit. Add the onions next and keep them moving to avoid burning them. Add the garlic after a minute or two (never start with the garlic as it will get bitter). Then, depending on your ability to handle the spiciness of the sili, you can add the chopped sili now and move momentarily away from the pan as the capsaicin oils launched into the air can be wicked. If you want the dish less spicy, add the sili after you cook the tomato sauce. Add Shaoxing if using it.
Put your cleaned crab pieces in the pan and cover. Saute crab for a few minutes until they are just colored, not cooked. Add the tomato and bottled chili sauce. Add salt. Cover and let it simmer for a few minutes until all the crab is cooked. Lightly beat one egg and put it in the pan stir to thicken the sauce. Add chopped coriander and serve hot. This dish needs lobster bibs, large clean dishtowels or tons of paper napkins served with it. In Singapore, they serve this with white bread to sop up the sauce. I like it with steamed rice. Count on at least Â½ kilo of crab per person for serious eaters. Oh, and final tip. Clean the crabs before you cook! I once relayed this recipe to a friend verbally and she forgot the cleaning step and had a really â€œblackishâ€ chili crab â€“ yuck. Enjoy!