Chilli Crab has become the signature “house dish” when we are at the beach. when we have guests and there is an abundance of crab at the market, we almost inevitably cook up a large pot of chilli crab. And while we normally serve this with steamed white rice, I find that many of our guests like to take some of the chilli crab sauce (of which we make an intentionally large amount) and mix it into their rice while enjoying the crab meat they are extracting from the shells. So last weekend, I had what I thought might be a brilliant idea and decided to make a batch of “Chilli Crab Rice” which included the peeled crab, some shrimp and the sauce so that it was a total meal in one dish… and no peeling necessary…
First steam 2 to 3 kilos of alimasag or alimango and after they are cool enough to handle, extract all of the crabmeat and set this aside. In a large pan, start off with a few tablespoons of butter, then add several tablespoons of finely chopped ginger, then onions, then garlic. I added half a kilo of peeled, deveined and sliced shrimp and sauteed that for a minute or two, a couple of sliced siling labuyo or bird’s eye chillies, some salt and pepper, tabasco if you like or other chilli sauce, then an egg and stir to thicken the sauce a bit.
Add the rice, ideally cooked several hours before or even the night before so that it has dried out a little, and stir until all of the grains are coated with the sauce. Add in the peeled crab meat, reserving some of the crab meat to garnish the top of the platter. Sprinkle in some chopped chives or green onions and or some chopped cilantro and serve hot.
It all sounds scrumptious, right? So why wasn’t this a slam dunk of a dish then? All of the elements of the chilli crab were there. You didn’t even have to pick your own darned crabs. And you could eat this with a fork or chopsticks and get all of the same calories without the fuss and muss. But oddly, while good, this wasn’t amazingly good. The rice was a bit too wet and soggy from all of that sauce, a bit like bad tomato-ey risotto. The shrimp and crab were drowned out by the rice (maybe I just put too much rice, but if I put less, the crab and shrimp to rice ratio would have been outrageously high and therefore seriously expensive).
For some reason, the idea behind this dish was better than the reality. I think part of the thrill and joy of eating chilli crabs is digging through the shells, sucking the sauce off your fingers and eating it at a pace that you can extract the meat. Then the occasional mouth full of rice and a bit of sauce just makes it all so yummy.
But having all the work done for you and mixing it all in a bowl like a “Mongolian Barbecue” just didn’t cut it for me. Mind you, we wiped out all of the rice in one meal. And the crew thought this was quite good, and that’s coming from the experts… But I think that unless you have an unplanned bounty of crab and shrimp and don’t know what to do with it, this dish is best left to one’s imagination, rather than making it a reality…
Then again, more fat like butter and oil, less tomato, more crab… who knows… this may still work for some of you intent on enjoying a Chilli Crab Rice! :)