27 Mar2008

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I was intrigued several months back when I read about curacha in Joey’s blog, 80breakfasts, here. And she prepared it with Alavar sauce, here. So when someone asked me just weeks ago if I had tried curacha in Batangas, I gave them a befuddled look as I thought the funky crabs were a Zamboanga thing (at least in the Philippines), and they have an Australian relative in the spanner crab that apparently crawls forwards and backwards rather than sideways like other crabs (according to that link provided)… So imagine my surprise when during my first visit to the Nasugbu market during Holy Week, it seemed the market had a MOTHER-LOAD of curacha! Spectacular looking beasts, if you ask me. Somewhat pre-historic in shape and demeanor and already orange in color, even when fresh out of the sea! The sceptic in me asked the first vendor with a pile of curacha if a frozen container-load of the crabs was sent up from Zamboanga, and they looked rather insulted by my query… But when one of my sukis held up one of her curachas, and it was still moving, and hence ALIVE, I was convinced these must be local (though a tinge of doubt set in later since Australia exports a phenomenal amount of this “lower-priced” creatures to Asia, and some crabs can stay alive for quite some time… So apparently there is curacha off the coast of Batangas somewhere (does it really matter how far off the coast?), and last week there were hundreds and hundreds of them in all sizes for sale. I bought one big one just to check it out, but I regret not buying a whole lot more…

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Back at home, I was stunned by the beauty of this crab, with its shell, joint and leg patterns that were just too cool, and a bright orange color red to boot. Never having encountered this crustacean fresh before, I was at a loss as to whether I should crack it open and cook it in pieces or cook it whole. I decided to cook it whole with some ginger, onions, garlic, siling mahaba, a touch of broth and salt and pepper. I think I overcooked it a bit as the meat dried out a little, but it was very good nevertheless. The next time I shall steam it until just cooked, then open it up and sauce it. Curacha is unique in that a lot of white meat is concentrated in the body of the crab, and it has very thin claws… For now, it definitely ranks third in my crab line-up behind alimango and alimasag… but I have to experiment with it further. Also, at PHP240 a kilo when all other crabs were in the PHP300ish range, this might turn out to be a cheaper alternative source of crabmeat for crabcakes and crab soups…

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COMMENTS:

  1. rachel says:

    this crab looked really scary but i heard it’s really good.the cookbook i bought from national bookstore last time we were there said you could only get them from zamboanga. i guess they’re wrong. the recipe called for guinataang curacha.i last picture looked yummy though.

    Mar 27, 2008 | 9:34 am

     
  2. Dale says:

    I would have to say that curacha is at the bottom of my crab list, and I was from Zamboanga. Your description of the flesh as dry is normal. I had always found it very dry and almost sandy. Curacha with Alavar sauce is good though. ANY crustacean with Alavar sauce is good! :)

    Mar 27, 2008 | 9:50 am

     
  3. Maria Clara says:

    Never seen nor tasted them before very odd looking though as you mentioned they are orange colored alive and moving!. My first glimpse of them is your informative blog. Sounds like a good meaty meat deal for money.

    Mar 27, 2008 | 9:52 am

     
  4. weng says:

    tasty..yummy..btw,im from nasugbu!!

    Mar 27, 2008 | 10:02 am

     
  5. joey says:

    Either way you look at it, it’s good to know that you can get curacha closer to home :) The best way I have tried it is actually made by C’s ninang (from Zamboanga), with gata, ginger, sili and other aromatics…she is the curacha expert in my book and it always come moist :)

    To store in case you buy a lot: My father-in-law par-boils them (alive) and then immediately freezes them.

    Mar 27, 2008 | 10:09 am

     
  6. Em Dy says:

    A patient gave me an icebox full of such beauties. We had such a grand time eating it. We’ve only eaten it steamed. We found that it was harder to crack the first time but once you learn the trick, it’s easy enough to finally get to the meat which is fleshy, soft and sweet. Now, where’s that patient from Zamboanga again?

    Mar 27, 2008 | 10:31 am

     
  7. Booey says:

    I think they were serving this type of crab at Market Cafe at Hyatt Casino last Easter. From afar i thought they were lobsters but when i got a piece, i couldn’t tell what they were (alimasag, alimango or imported crab) until i saw the pictures from your post. They were served grilled lang and the meat was dry nga buy the talangka was pretty good, liquid-y…

    Mar 27, 2008 | 10:43 am

     
  8. zeph says:

    I’m curious to know if they have the same aligue you’d find in your typical alimango.

    Mar 27, 2008 | 10:55 am

     
  9. Cumin says:

    If curacha is the same as coconut crabs, then I think it’s also available in Batanes.

    Mar 27, 2008 | 11:27 am

     
  10. kasseopeia says:

    Wow! I learned something new again, MM!

    I agree… it looks quite scary. Especially with those legs. So furry. Was this crab male or female?

    And another stupid question: is this the curacha that figures in the song? Harhar…

    Mar 27, 2008 | 11:49 am

     
  11. eej says:

    I’ve never seen nor tasted these strange looking creatures before. Oh well, I doubt I’ll ever get to try one in the Americas.

    Mar 27, 2008 | 11:53 am

     
  12. DADD-F says:

    Indeed, curacha itself is a beauty and when cooked, provides for an interesting alternative to my favorites: alimango–for me, this is tops, then, followed by the alimasag. Everytime I return from my field sites, you can bet I have a BIG ice chest full of crustaceans and fishes (e.g. tuna, lapu-lapu), squids and fish products like Sarangani Bay’s products and tuna tocino, etc.). But with crabs and their relatives, best to cook/boil them first before freezing, like joey said. No sense trying to bring them alive. Either they die due to stress or mamatay lang. Either way, they wouldn’t be good to anyone.

    I looked up the blog you mentioned. I was hoping that I would find a new recipe for alavar sauce but it seems the writer used a prepared alavar sauce already. Alavar sauce as prepared at the Alavar restaurant, of course, is always so delicious but there are many versions of it and I actually prefer Ate Ching’s version. Ate Chiching used to serve me food in the ZSC-MST. Some of my former students have their own versions also and I have since created my own, too. I do mine with aligue and I use Alavar sauce in other dishes as well. Ay, ano ba yan! Nakakagutom.

    This is what I like about your blog MM. So many interesting things.

    Mar 27, 2008 | 1:26 pm

     
  13. nina says:

    My first encounter with curacha is a resto somewhere in QC.
    My friend ordered it for us and it was cooked with “gata.” I also thought this came somewhere from Visayas/Mindanao…

    Mar 27, 2008 | 1:48 pm

     
  14. CecileJ says:

    I used to love eating curacha. But an encounter with a frozen one sent from Zamboanga landed me in Makati Med for a good 5 days bec of an intense allergic reaction! Shun eating it in Manila now…But am heartened by the news that one can now buy live ones in Batangas. Am eagerly awaiting it becoming available in Salcedo Market…

    Mar 27, 2008 | 1:56 pm

     
  15. Homebuddy says:

    EEJ, strange looking creatures, indeed! Whenever I see Curacha it reminds me of Sci-Fi movies wherein some Aliens are curacha look alikes! Hehehe.

    I get mine from Surigao but they are available only during certain months of the year.

    Will try MM’s recipe next time around, looks good.

    Mar 27, 2008 | 2:08 pm

     
  16. Em says:

    Curacha(Spanner or Frog Crab)is available throughout the Philippines. I’ve had these in Bataan, Mindoro and as far up north in Ilocos. The flesh has a slightly different texture than blue crabs and tend to get tough easily when boiled.

    Mar 27, 2008 | 3:28 pm

     
  17. Sandy says:

    I am from Zamboanga and This is my favorite amongst the crab list. It has more meat and easier to eat! We usually eat it with
    Alavar-gata sauce or steam them fry with garlic, then dip with Pinakurat! yum! Just have to make sure it is fresh.

    Mar 27, 2008 | 4:24 pm

     
  18. Ellen says:

    Hi MM! That’s sooo cheap over there! I have to admit, I only got to eat this crab recently. I was a bit put off by its alien looks..hehe. I wish I discovered them sooner. They are quite delicious and tasty especially when cooked a la Chili Crab =) and the price of these crabs in melbourne?? It’s a whopping $35 a kilo! It can be as pricey as the Queensland mud crab.

    Mar 27, 2008 | 4:51 pm

     
  19. Avic Nacuda says:

    I love this type of crab. The meat is so sweet and I usually order it whenever I go home to Zambo and have the chance to eat at Alavar’s there. I always bring back here in Manila a pack of their special sauce everytime I go home to Zambo. Thanks for this post MM. It makes me homesick, though. :)

    Mar 27, 2008 | 5:58 pm

     
  20. Katrina says:

    LUUURVE curacha!!! I must admit I’ve only tried it once, at Alavar’s, with the requisite (and much-missed) Alavar sauce. But I can’t forget it. Especially since I am often too lazy to shell regular crabs, I like that this one rewards with more meat. That’s great news that it isn’t just found in Zamboanga! Maybe we will see it served in Manila restaurants soon.

    Mar 27, 2008 | 6:00 pm

     
  21. erleeen says:

    I have tried this only once when we visited some friends up north in Claveria, Cagayan.

    Definitely weird looking but tasty. Seems they have more aligue than your typical alimasag/alimango.

    Mar 28, 2008 | 2:51 am

     
  22. Jamie says:

    I’ve also seen one in Pagudpud, so I don’t think that they are exclusive to Batangas and Zamboanga.

    Mar 28, 2008 | 4:53 am

     
  23. carina says:

    i would always remember zamboanga for the curacha! :) i can’t recall though, but this one from nasugbu looks a little different from that from zamboanga. hehehe. superb tasting!

    Mar 28, 2008 | 6:52 am

     
  24. millet says:

    i’ve also seen curacha in Agusan and Surigao, except that they’re called by a different name. years back, we inquired at a surigao del sur market about ordering curacha. a little boy was promptly sent home to fetch it. the lad came back with a 45 rpm record of…curacah dance music! i kid you not.

    curacha do not have the moistness and plumpness of mud crabs, but their flesh and aligue can be just as sweet. that one you got looks delicious. it’s best with coconut milk-based sauces (such as alavar’s, or some other curry sauce), but am thinking just now it could go well with a lught chinese soysauce-ginger-scallion sauce, too.

    Mar 28, 2008 | 8:34 am

     
  25. Noel says:

    Been eating these things for many years, they were quite the rage in the late 80s/early 90s in the restaurants Nandau and Alavar (they rarely had big ones though). I like them fine, but prefer alimango myself (specially king crab from Surigao).

    The big curachas for me. Medium-sized or little ones ones are too much of a bother to “make himay”. Like alimango, my favorite way of having them is simply steamed to the point of doneness. With sawsawan, fresh steaming white rice, a nice lato/tomato/onion salad and maybe inihaw na liempo on the side and we’re in business. A nice bottle of chilled Sancerre (blanc) or Pouilly-fume wouldn’t hurt either.

    I have only recently become aware that they are fished off Batangas, I had always known them to be from Zamboanga. Years ago, when I would wake up early to go to Seaside market, i’d come across some really big curachas but wouldn’t buy them since they weren’t alive. Probably from Zamboanga.

    Best regards,

    N

    Mar 28, 2008 | 12:18 pm

     
  26. Belle says:

    what’s alavar and what’s an alavar sauce? thanks. :)

    Mar 28, 2008 | 12:20 pm

     
  27. Noel says:

    Been eating this for many years since popularized in Manila by the Nandau and Alavar restaurants during the late 80s/early 90s. They rarely had the big ones, though, which I prefer since the medium-sized and little ones are too much work to make “himay”.

    I do prefer alimango, however, particularly the king crabs from Surigao. Their aligue is like cream; not unlike that of the Chinese hairy crab.

    Like alimango, I prefer curacha simply steamed to the point of doneness and served with steaming white rice, a salad of pako/tomato/onion and simple sawsawan of good suka, garlic and sili labuyo. Add a bottle of chilled Sancerre (blanc) or Puilly-fumé and we’re in business.

    It was only recently that I found out curacha could also be caught off nearby Batangas (usually, when natives there refer to curacha, they are referring to pitik). Before that, I thought they only came from Zamboanga.

    In the late 90s to early ’00s, I’d wake up early and go to Seaside market for fresh seafood (crabs, lobsters, scallops, suahe, prawns, oysters, pitik, etc.). I’d come across large curachas there once in a while but would never buy any since they weren’t alive. Must have come from Zamboanga.

    Best,

    Noel

    Mar 28, 2008 | 12:42 pm

     
  28. faye says:

    Wow yummy! What about its cholesterol content?

    Mar 28, 2008 | 12:59 pm

     
  29. millet says:

    check the freezer section of your supermarkets. we have a few here in davao that sell frozen alavar sauce in half-kilo and one kilo packs.

    Mar 28, 2008 | 3:28 pm

     
  30. T. Hope says:

    I do enjoy curacha – however, it has to be the right size, otherwise there are too many chambers to deal with before you get to the yummy flesh. Down here in Z. you can find it really fresh in Guiwan market — sizes vary depending on the season and weather.

    Mar 29, 2008 | 12:32 pm

     
  31. dhayL says:

    They look like “giant orange-looking spider” to me, hehehe, very hairy indeed, but the last phote reveals very meaty, oh so good!

    Apr 7, 2008 | 12:28 am

     
  32. LEO says:

    For those interested in getting the Alavar sauce,we have a branch in Sct Ybardolaza cor Timog ave QC.(926-5636).By the way,you can also try adding it to your pinakbet to make it Pinakbet with ALAVAR SAUCE..

    Jun 5, 2008 | 8:36 pm

     
  33. Jessica says:

    Hi, where can I buy this curacha. I tried this years ago and hinde na naulit.. and how much..thanks

    Aug 21, 2008 | 4:34 pm

     
  34. Nap Maminta says:

    I have seen some of the comments complaining that the meat is dry and sandy. They must have eaten the spanner crab (curacha in Zamboanga) cooked after having been dead for an hour or more. It must be cooked live for the meat to retain its good taste and should not be frozen for more than a week after it is cooked. I brought cooked frozen spanner crab to the USA from Zamboanga and I noticed the difference in taste. I still have 5 pcs in the freezer. Spanner crab meat tastes very much like the blue crab, better than King crab and Dungeness crab

    The spanner crab which is the legendary “curacha” of Zamboanga has always intrigued me because of the claims that it is only found in the ocean around the Zamboanga peninsula. Not so, it is found in Hawaii, in South Africa, Indonesia, Australia which exports tons of the crab, and of course in the Philippines from as far north as Batanes to as far south as Tawi-tawi. However, nobody seems to have found it in the
    Visayas, perhaps not because they are not there but because
    the Visayans have not discovered it yet.

    Nap

    Jan 16, 2009 | 10:09 pm

     
  35. ANNA MARIE says:

    Curacha is not that really exciting to eat; and i don’t know why it is so high priced…but i’ve eaten something from puerto galera that resembles Curacha, but it is more rounder, like the “bao” of the coconut…and believe me it is the best tasting crustacean with gata that i have eaten..what it looks when it is alive is the same when it is cooked…and it is more fleshy when the bao is removed once it is cooked, and better tasting than the known curacha….could someone please tell what it is…i haven’t seen it since 1994 in peurto galera, when white beach is not yet polluted with a lot of people…..

    Apr 27, 2009 | 5:00 pm

     
  36. lawrence says:

    wow i was just looking for pictures and came across this crab.
    this thing looks weiirrrd!! but i wanna try it only cuz i like the typical crab thats blue wen alive O.o’

    May 13, 2009 | 3:54 am

     
  37. Edison Samontanez says:

    We call it”ipis dagat ” in Nasugbu,Batangas.They do taste good. We usually catch with a spade.They are quite pretty fast digging in the sand.

    Dec 16, 2009 | 12:57 am

     
 

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