17 Aug2011

The title of this post could have easily been “Deep-fried soft shell crabs” but that sounded too boring… I suspect this dish will be one of the next targets of animal rights activists, and while I have to say I would understand some of their points of view, I still love soft shell crabs and will continue to eat them. The bones of contention? First you take a crab that molts up to nearly two dozen times in its lifetime if it achieves adulthood — molting means shedding its hard shell or exoskeleton — and you catch it just as it is at its NAKEDEST, when the hard shell has come off.

THEN, you grasp it firmly in hand, take a pair of kitchen shears and cut off its face (eyes, mouth and nose (if they have a nose)) and squeeze out its brains while it writhes in agony. Turn it over, remove its gills and gunk and cut off its flap. Many folks cut off its claws as well. Now it is ready to cook. If you don’t believe me, read this particularly good write-up by someone else who had to do this prep work herself, I merely picked up the frozen soft shell crabs already cleaned (phew!)…

Every week, I receive dozens of emails from folks trying to sell me or the readers stuff. I often ignore the emails if they sound too commercial, or politely respond when I want to encourage but not purchase. Every once in a while, I find GREAT sources of food this way, and I am wickedly excited when that happens. Such is the case when I received an email from a reader whose family raises crabs in fish ponds in Zamboanga del Norte and who harvest, clean and freeze them when they are at their nakedest. For this, I was hooked. And ordered two kilos to test. The crabs arrived a few days ago, and I have cooked up half a kilo’s worth thus far, to wonderful results. At PHP750 a kilo for medium (small actually, some 3-4 inches wide, I would have loved them bigger…), they are NOT cheap, but I am more than happy to pay the price as a little goes a long way. They came out to roughly PHP25 per piece or so. I defrosted the soft shell crabs, rinsed them a bit, dried them off, then soaked them in milk. The sellers suggest you steam or boil them first before frying, but I wouldn’t do that. They are so small that that step is not necessary, in my opinion. Season and coat with Wondra or some all-purpose flour and deep fry. That turned out okay, but I decided to try a tempura style batter instead and that worked even better.

Lower the crabs gently into the hot fat and deep-fry for several minutes until the sputtering of liquids has stopped and the crabs turn a light golden color.

Remove the crabs and let them drain on a plate with some paper towels to absorb the extra lard.

These ones with tempura style batter…

…this one with Wondra. Stay tuned to see what I did with the deep-fried soft shell crabs.

If you are a chef, restaurant owner, etc. and are looking for a source, here is the contact information (arrgh, I hope this doesn’t mean a flood of buyers, and I can’t get any in future!). Tell them Marketman sent you, and maybe, just maybe, they will keep a few big ones for me to purchase when they sell more than they can produce in their fish ponds… :)

Soft-Shell Crabs
PHP750 kilo LARGE (which are actually small, roughly 30 pcs to a kilo)
PHP600 kilo REGULAR (which are actually petite)
Emil Quisumbing
Royal Quality Agro Resources
Palanan, Makati

I love it when products such as these make it from farm (pond) to market (marketman). Love it.



  1. Anne :-) says:

    Hmmm….now I’m curious on what will you do to those skinny dipping crabs….making a dip to match them is way too simple for you… :-)

    Aug 17, 2011 | 5:53 pm


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  3. millet says:

    let me guess…you made it into a sandwich, and a salad, too? you had me at “skinny-dipping” ;-)

    Aug 17, 2011 | 5:58 pm

  4. millet says:

    i would love a banh mi-style sandwich with these babies, with a little spicy citrus dressing and lots of pickled veggies. oh wow, now i’m in serious trouble, i want these crabs, too!

    Aug 17, 2011 | 6:13 pm

  5. ConnieC says:

    MM: Did you fry them in coconut oil?

    Since they are rather small , did you try frying them in their battered frozen state?

    Aug 17, 2011 | 6:49 pm

  6. Marketman says:

    Connie, they need to defrost, to rid the crabs of unwanted moisture inside from the freezing and processing stages. I used lard… :) millet, you are very warm on the uses… Anne, the crew ate them with chili vinegar, an excellent use… :)

    Aug 17, 2011 | 7:03 pm

  7. Footloose says:

    First read about soft shell crab and crab cakes in James Michener’s Chesapeake (1978). Have been ordering it in Chinese restaurants back here (in Canada) for at least thirty seasons where they quarter them, deep fry them ever so lightly dredged with flour and serve them on a bed of ribbons of pickled white radish and carrots, one of the very few quickly vanishing special treats in this world that is not also endangered.

    Encouragement with actual support and linking small and experimental food producers to enthusiastic consumers is no mean feat for a blog of any kind. A cabinet portfolio might be high profile (sorry Artisan) but where ass-kissing is the job description is so distracting if not disgusting. Leave that to politicians who have nothing better to do.

    Aug 17, 2011 | 7:14 pm

  8. Zerho says:

    Skinny-dipping frogs! Wonder if any restaurant that currently offers soft shelled crabs.

    Aug 17, 2011 | 7:27 pm

  9. EbbaBlue says:

    I will sure record this address for my future visit to Pinas. Here in Houston I ate more than twice deep fried soft shell crab and the seasonin is not to my liking, so when I saw fresh ones in a vietnamese store, I bought some, battered it and deep fried.. not knowing it has to be cleaned. Taste was good…except for those bitter parts that I should have taken out. Now I know, so I’ll keep an eye for these babies next time I shop.

    Aug 17, 2011 | 8:13 pm

  10. betty q. says:

    Oh…MM….what a timely post! I started my day yesterday with a visit to my mom (it was her birthday) at the funeral park ….then headed mid-town to see a friend and give him a few packs of my Candied Salmon and he traded 2 packs of dried lobster mushrooms and dried matsutakes for my candied salmon….next, I headed to downtown to drop off 2 loaves of my chocolate cake to my dear friend/chef at his new bistro and gave him the 2 packs of dried mushrooms for which he traded 2 lobsters…it was a toss-up between the SOFT SHELL CRAB and lobsters…the lobsters won! Hubby asked how in the world did I end up with 2 FREE lobsters?!? I still have a few packs of DRIED PORCINIS, so I think one of these days, I know I will end with a whole box of frozen SOFT SHELL CRABS!

    Aug 17, 2011 | 9:14 pm

  11. lee says:

    Soft shelled crabs. hmmm… I would love to have them packed in a sandwich with good mayonnaise… and extra rice on the side just in case.

    Aug 17, 2011 | 10:54 pm

  12. Lava Bien says:

    MM, where do you buy your WOK? It looks nice.

    Aug 17, 2011 | 11:08 pm

  13. Lambchop says:

    Yummy!!!!!! Drool!!!

    Aug 17, 2011 | 11:13 pm

  14. Mary Lee says:

    Used to love soft-shell crabs until I saw the first “Alien” movie. The scene where the alien is plastered across the unlucky crewman’s face — it looks exactly like a soft shell crab. Haven’t eaten them since — and now the kids won’t even try them either. It’s ok, I’ll stick with hard shell crabs.

    Aug 17, 2011 | 11:21 pm

  15. jong says:

    I love eating these just the way MM prepared using the tempura batter with plain rice and spicy vinegar as the dipping sauce.

    Aug 18, 2011 | 12:42 am

  16. ros says:

    Mmmmm… Crabs…. Yum!!

    I now reward you with a Japanese striptease.


    (Japanese spider crab molting) :D

    Aug 18, 2011 | 2:06 am

  17. Marketman says:

    ros, that is SERIOUSLY cool… thanks!

    Aug 18, 2011 | 6:26 am

  18. pegi says:

    Hi, MM! Thanks for this wonderful post. I love soft shell crabs and wonder where I can buy them. Even at China town here in Oakland, CA , I cannot find them. Do you think, your source will ship in the US?

    Aug 18, 2011 | 6:56 am

  19. Footloose says:

    Aha, a crab in ecdysis.

    Aug 18, 2011 | 7:23 am

  20. Marketman says:

    pegi, I think not. Raw food imports are often subject to strict FDA requirements… although I understand rules are simpler for seafood rather than meat…

    Aug 18, 2011 | 8:07 am

  21. Marketman says:

    Footloose, only you would have known “ecdysis”… I wish I took the SAT today and their hardest vocabulary word was “ecdysis”… I would have so nailed it now. :)

    Aug 18, 2011 | 8:15 am

  22. Jeff says:

    Perfect with Beer Below Zero!

    Will try to check it out this weekend. I will be at Palanan (Cash & Carry) this Sunday. I’ll try to order this week. May minimum ba MM?

    Aug 18, 2011 | 8:37 am

  23. Marketman says:

    Jeff, I think they are really wholesalers, but its worth a try if they will sell you a kilo or so. You have to call in advance, stocks arrive by airfreight and are often gone in a day or two…

    Aug 18, 2011 | 8:40 am

  24. Mimi says:

    Off topic: my French-Filipino friend says was at Escario branch and emailed to say “sarap-sarap talaga” and she’s off to Paris. She was in Cebu for less than 72 hours.

    Aug 18, 2011 | 8:44 am

  25. Marketman says:

    Mimi, thanks for that, we have instituted drastic changes to staffing at Escario in the past few days and was hoping to bring service levels up to par with Mango branch… early feedback is good… thanks!

    Aug 18, 2011 | 9:34 am

  26. mel ojeda says:

    this is yummy mm

    Aug 18, 2011 | 9:42 am

  27. Claire says:

    You should try making Caesar salad with softshell crab, I always order it here in one of the restaurants. Yum! Cholesterol galore.

    Aug 18, 2011 | 9:44 am

  28. calorie-shmalorie says:

    just saw frozen vacuum packed soft-shelled crabs at South Supermarket the other day. kinda pricey at P140 or P160 for what looked like a pack of 4 small crabs. didnt buy because it looked like they previously defrosted and then re-froze.

    Aug 18, 2011 | 10:27 am

  29. Elodie Jane Amora says:

    Hi Marketman, again a great recipe! Do you happen to know where I can buy soft-shelled crabs in Cebu? :)

    Aug 18, 2011 | 2:13 pm

  30. sister says:

    Glad you can get soft shell crabs in Manila at a very reasonable price. I’m sorry they are minus claws, better tell the purveyor to leave them intact. They are at least $5. each live in a fish store, quickly turning to buckram. Most restaurants buy them frozen, like peas, they are pssibly fresher that way unless you make a trip to Deal. I love them, most Chinese restaurants do a decent job with them and they are often featured in the best restaurants all summer.

    Aug 18, 2011 | 6:09 pm

  31. Marketman says:

    sister, for some reason, perhaps species of crab, several sites recommend removing the claws… but I do remember eating the ones in Maryland with claws. Elodie, sorry, I have no idea if they are available in Cebu. Calorie-shmalorie, those are about 50% higher than these crabs here, but the re-freezing would be a concern… Claire, yes, a salad with crab on it is delicious, see this one we had at the Bergdorf Goodman Cafe in New York several years ago…

    Aug 18, 2011 | 6:15 pm

  32. Getter Dragon 1 says:

    Genius…tho I think in the halls of the Philippine Heart Center hangs a wanted poster of you MM!

    @Pegi – strange…you should be able to find soft shells in the bay area…you may have to commute from Oakland.

    Aug 19, 2011 | 3:19 am

  33. Eileen says:

    Looks so yummy, will definitely look for crabs tomorrow at the market, and have our own skinny dipping party :)

    Aug 19, 2011 | 10:11 am

  34. MiMac says:

    I love soft shell crabs! It used to be so scarce in the metro. Now, I am so happy coz I can get to order them in several restos— at Mamou, the thai resto that used to be Terrace on the 5th, Fish & Co, just to name a few.:)

    The first time I tried it was about 10 years ago in a restaurant called, Nara located at the basement of the Grand Hyatt in Bangkok. Been going back for more, since then. Hehehe…

    Aug 19, 2011 | 10:29 am

  35. Rey Quisumbing says:


    What an awesome article. Now I know we are on the right track and will concentrate on the production side which we are the only ones doing it. Keep up the Good Work . . .

    Gentleman Farmer
    0908 8660886

    Aug 19, 2011 | 11:45 am

  36. Rey Quisumbing says:

    Dear All,

    Please be informed that we are producing these softshell crabs in our farm,
    Sitio Sayao, Brgy. Diplo, Kumalarang, Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines 7016
    for more info try to check our website at http://www.sayaofarms.com

    Rey Quisumbing
    Gentleman Farmer
    email add: rey_quisumbing@yaho.com

    Aug 19, 2011 | 4:20 pm

  37. jakbkk says:

    i lived in Thailand for 15++ years and one of my favorite dishes is SOFT-SHELLED CRAB CURRY (Poo Nim Phad Phong Kalee)…..yumyum

    Aug 19, 2011 | 5:51 pm

  38. Sharon says:

    Coconut oil, coconut oil, when are you going to fry with coconut oil? ;-)

    Aug 20, 2011 | 8:34 pm

  39. Alisa says:

    Im really curious on how you take these amazing photos? Do you have a special setup in the kitchen? I love that photo of the oil sputtering. Hope you can share a photo of how you take these.

    Aug 27, 2011 | 10:09 am

  40. Ivy leung says:


    MM..how can I order? I’m here at Valero st, Makati city only. Can I order 2 kl.

    Ivy leung

    Sep 10, 2011 | 10:15 pm

  41. Raph says:

    Hello MM! The “Kapuso Mo Jesica Soho” show featured soft shelled crabs last night. Apparently, the owner of the featured farm in Davao that sells the live soft shelled crab uses a technique wherein they remove all the legs and claws of the crab to induce molting. New information for me! :) I wonder if all soft shell crab producers do the same. They also featured a recipe similar to yours (tempura style, but with Panko breadcrumbs).

    Sep 11, 2011 | 5:00 am

  42. GerryT says:

    It looks super tasty! I’m hungry… = )

    Aug 16, 2012 | 5:31 pm


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