On Halloween, a box containing 5 kilos of fantastic Culion Island, Palawan crabs arrived at our home. This was definitely a treat. Mangrove harvested (as opposed to being raised in ponds and fed stuff I wouldnâ€™t approve of) and super fresh despite the day long transit on an Aboitiz Superferry, I was concerned how I should use this crustacean bounty. The crabs were smaller than usual (I have received 1-2 kilo giants from the same island) but the meat sweet and delicious. Being Halloween, scaring up 5-6 dinner guests on a moments notice to enjoy simple steamed crabs or chilli crabs was nearly impossible. So I decided to indulge and make two dishes I normally consider highly extravagant and eat them all ourselvesâ€¦ and which take me back to the wonderful crab houses/restaurants in Baltimore, Maryland. First up, crab cakesâ€¦
The five kilos of crab were cleaned and steamed until bright orange and the meat just cooked. After a few minutes of cooling the crab, four people started removing as much of the meat as possible. This is an unbelievably labor intensive activity and a royal pain in the rear â€“ I only have this dish when someone else is going to extract the crab meat for me! Five kilos of whole crabs yielded just 1 kilo of cooked crab meat. Of this, I decided to use just over half on some crab cakes. To make, start with about 1 pound or half a kilo of lump white crab meat. Frankly, I used dark meat as well and because the crabs were small, the meat wasnâ€™t too big and â€œlumpy.â€ Make sure the cartilage and shells are removed so there are no nasty surprises when you bite into the crab cakesâ€¦
Mix together one large egg, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, some Dijon mustard, some Worcestershire sauce if you like it, and chopped fresh parsley (didnâ€™t have any that night). Add the cooked crab meat and mix gently, adding some ground pepper. Add 6-8 crumbled saltines or soda crackers if you like, others like to do this purely with crabmeat. Good breadcrumbs are a possible substitute, but use just 5-6 tablespoons. Add a pinch of old bay seasoning for added flavor. Form into small crab cakes and place on a plate and refrigerate. I made 7 crab cakes from the 1 pound of crab meat. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This step is important to avoid the crab cakes breaking up when being fried. Heat up some vegetable oil so that the crab cakes are about 1/4th submerged when frying. Fry until just golden brown on both sides and drain on paper towels. Serve with a dill mayonnaise, lemons or a cocktail style tomato sauce with zing. I like to serve this with a small salad on the side. Count on one piece per normal diner, two for those with hearty appetites. These are misleadingly filling as they are solid crab meat and incredibly rich. Makes an excellent starter or a main course together with a nice soup. Average cost about PHP150 per crab cakeâ€¦ not counting the labor involvedâ€¦ no wonder you donâ€™t find these on restaurant menus that often!