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… :)
PHP750 kilo LARGE (which are actually small, roughly 30 pcs to a kilo)
PHP600 kilo REGULAR (which are actually petite)
Royal Quality Agro Resources
I love it when products such as these make it from farm (pond) to market (marketman). Love it.