12 Feb2012

So while I explained in this previous post the distinguishing marks and physical attributes of male, female and juvenile or “virgin” female crabs, ultimately, I suppose, the things that matter most are taste and texture… I have to admit I was a bit sceptical that the three types of crabs would differ noticeably in taste and texture, but I set that bias aside and did a taste test. First, all samples were roughly the same size, and hopefully presumably from the same source or general area. We cleaned them and steamed them for exactly 12 minutes over aggressively boiling water. They were cooled for several minutes and peeled in the same manner, by the same person. Then laid out on this plank of wood for a photo and subsequent tasting. They are totally unseasoned, and I was truly surprised by our findings…

First, the “manang” or adult, sexually mature female crab. It cooked up a bright orange, and it’s meat was hefty and for lack of a better word, meaty. :) But what was truly remarkable is that it was just a tinge noticeably more orange (the meat), almost as tough it had some fat in it or a tinge of the coral, which in this specimen, was completely missing.

Here’s a close up of the older female crab meat. It was delicious, but a little tougher than the other specimens, and not as “sweet”. It was good, but if I had to draw an analogy, it would be what you would expect the difference to be between mutton and lamb… older, string-ier and less sweet. The main reason to eat this type of crab would be to gain access to the orange coral/fat. But considering you are killing a breeder, I really think eating female crabs in the Philippines should be banned.

Next up, the juvenile or virgin female crab. It cooked up a slightly paler shade of orange, and the meat was noticeably white and “more pure” or so six of us unanimously agreed. It had a juicier and smoother texture, closer to a baby’s bottom than say my butt would be, at 47 years old. :)

The taste? Excellent. The best of the three, definitely. I could pick this one out blindfolded I think, if choosing between these three specimens. It was sweet and salty at the same time, and almost butter soft in texture. Moist and less stringy. Delicious. However, given that it is a teenage female sacrifice, I have some qualms about consuming these at all… If you must have them, then enjoy them purchased alive, and simply steamed until JUST cooked. Eat them as is, and don’t even bother with vinegar, garlic, salt, etc. If you choose to add the latter, you might as well just eat some good males instead. So the vendors at the market are indeed right that these taste better, but they are wrong about sexual preference. :)

The male crab was next… a nice dense meat, not as stringy as the adult female, and far paler or whiter in color, almost similar to the Juvenile Female crab. This tasted good, but clearly lacked the sweetness of the teenager. But given all the factors, I would eat this one most of the time, so as to spare the females and breeders, and since as soon as you add sauces, seasonings, vinegar, etc., the difference in taste and texture would not be as pronounced. If you use the crab meat in omelettes, crab cakes, soups, etc., then use male crab meat. Personally, I will endeavor to avoid eating many female crabs from now on, except for that utterly special occasion where a steamed crab au naturel is called for… for that, it will be the juvenile virgins unless these are made illegal to harvest, sell and consume.

Here a close up of the male crab meat…

…juvenile female crab meat…

…and the mature female crab meat with that tinge of orange.

A little bowl of picked crab meat from the adult…

…the female teen…

…and the adult male. :)

Calling all intelligent and caring Philippine law-makers out there, isn’t it about time we regulated the catch, sale and consumption of wild female crabs? Please?

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Eloise says:

    My first time to post, but that doesn’t mean this is the first time I read your blog. Am a follower. (“,)

    Nice shots MM! Sharp contrasts noted, in fact, if these photos are the cooked crabs in front of me, I can even smell it. And I can imagine how each one tastes too..

    Thanks for the added info, and the intricate descriptions of male, female and in-between crabs.

    Feb 12, 2012 | 5:29 pm

     
  2. Gerry says:

    I think most crabs are raised from wild caught crablets. We should find a way to breed crabs to prevent depletion of wild stocks. I think there has been some success in mud crab breeding in Australia. By the looks of it, we are depleting everything taken from the wild. From sardines to tuna and even galunggong. I sincerely think we should ban the serving of sharksfin. Such a wasteful process just to come up with a bland product.

    Feb 12, 2012 | 5:52 pm

     
  3. Maileen Uy says:

    Hi MM,

    I am watching Pinoy Junior Masterchef and you’re on TV! :)

    Cheers,
    May

    Feb 12, 2012 | 7:42 pm

     
  4. 100kpinoy says:

    nakakatakam naman!
    sayang wala ako nakikitang alimango dito sa disyerto :(

    Feb 12, 2012 | 7:45 pm

     
  5. Connie C says:

    One could say also that male crabs if overharvested may not grow large enough to cover or “embrace” the female to protect her while she is finishing the molting process and hardening her shell to protect the unfertilized and”unborn”.

    In Maryland, they do not allow harvesting male or female crabs if they are under a certain size . The DENR also limits the amount of female crabs harvested with certain closures during the year for harvesting.

    Protecting the environment in which the crabs( mud crabs) thrive such as protecting/ reforesting mangrove swamps would be one way to ensure we will enjoy serving crabs on our tables in years to come.

    Feb 12, 2012 | 8:47 pm

     
  6. joyce says:

    Thanks for the informative lesson on crabs! Will keep this in mind when I do marketing. Agree that law-makers should regulate the catch of the female crabs.

    Feb 12, 2012 | 8:54 pm

     
  7. Footloose says:

    Agree with Connie C, degradation of and encroachment into their habitat are the more immediate dangers they are facing. These, combined with harvests that leave no chance for recovery and renewal trigger the disappearance of species. Cod which at one point in history was thought to be so abundant that you could cross the Atlantic walking on their backs are now so scarce even in Canada’s Grand Banks, they serve saltcod imported from Norway in Portuguese restaurants here. You see Norway implemented a conservation plan early on whereas Canada did not.

    Feb 12, 2012 | 9:15 pm

     
  8. Marketman says:

    Yes, I agree habitat is essential too. Mangroves are probably down to just 10% of what they used to be, if that. We need the mangroves not only for the crabs, but as a breeding ground and hatchery for fish as well…

    Feb 12, 2012 | 9:40 pm

     
  9. PJ says:

    great post here…

    i got intrigued with the “bakla” type of crabs being mentioned in the show today. though im not really into seafood due to allergy, i find it fascinating to learn how to cook them.

    by the way, it was nice seeing you on tv MM, are you going to be part of the panel of the masterchef edition? i was actually telling my mom about you when we were watching the show, but i guess she didn’t pick up my excitement since the last time she used a computer was the one with a floppy disk…

    anyways, more power to you as always and god bless :)

    Feb 12, 2012 | 10:36 pm

     
  10. Eternal Wanderer says:

    Younger is better.

    *insert evil grin*

    teehee

    Feb 12, 2012 | 11:44 pm

     
  11. lee says:

    I love aligue. No crabs = no aligue. I am for the conservation of crabs and i hope that the breeder crabs be returned to their habitats :) I’ll try to go back to the crab gathering seashore village I accidentally visited last month on a photoshoot and I’ll try to ask them their thought on returning breeder crabs that they have caught.

    Feb 13, 2012 | 1:25 am

     
  12. ariel says:

    after the last picture I was hoping to see the dip(butter or vinegar)

    what happened to the fat(alique)

    those tempting pictures got me hungry..wish i was home in the Philippines..male or female and in betweens will go to my hungry stomach

    Feb 13, 2012 | 2:02 am

     
  13. flip4ever says:

    Protection of the habitat is probably the more immediate and practical solution. I think you would need an extensive educational campaign before implementing laws prohibiting sale of female crab. Aligue is a prized and much enjoyed part of the crab, so your run the risk of developing a “black market” in female crabs if such a law were implemented without convincing people of the need for such a law.

    Feb 13, 2012 | 3:01 am

     
  14. friedneurons says:

    They could probably formulate rules similar to the ones regulating the dungeness and king crab “harvests” here… only males that meet minimum size requirements can be taken. Juvenile males and all females must be returned to the sea…

    Feb 13, 2012 | 3:49 am

     
  15. Marketman says:

    Surprisingly, there has been some work to restore and protect habitat, and mangroves are being protected in many parts of the country now, and locals are being educated. My dad did quite a bit of work on this even 20+ years ago, and where re-planting of mangroves didn’t happen, they tried artificial reefs to encourage fish spawning/fry habitats… Of pandanon island in Cebu for example, there was a massive all mangrove island area that was protected… and I have seen areas in Palawan that are now recognized as critical to the health of the fish population… so while it may be slow, awareness is building. But I do wish we could restrain ourselves and enjoy the fruits of nature in a logical and more sustainable manner. I eat all kinds of things, but could and would restrain myself if it meant avoiding extinction…

    Feb 13, 2012 | 6:00 am

     
  16. Marketman says:

    ariel, in this case, I was trying to taste the meat unflavored by any seasoning or dips, hence the lack of dips. And oddly, despite it being a robust female, it had little or no coral.

    Feb 13, 2012 | 6:04 am

     
  17. Gerry says:

    Check out this link on mud crab breeding by SEAFDEC. In the article, they mention that there are three species of mud crabs in the country. They’ve succeeded in hatching and rearing crablets from breeders and are even selling these commercially. So I hope this will take some pressure off the wild stocks.

    http://www.seafdec.org.ph/2011/hatchery-nursery-of-mud-crab/

    Feb 13, 2012 | 7:46 am

     
  18. PITS, MANILA says:

    GUILTY. over the alimango and alimasag, since we usually have the male and the juvenile female. MOST GUILTY over consuming large amounts of live female baby crabs specifically for burong talangka. WARNING NOTED.

    Feb 13, 2012 | 8:21 am

     
  19. Tin says:

    nakakatakam naman! i love crabs!!!

    Feb 13, 2012 | 9:23 am

     
  20. Josephine says:

    Wow, what a fascinating and thorough study and such great pics! Here in Europe if you ‘re feeding a family on a budget meat is actually more affordable whereas seafood is becoming a luxury. In the Philippines it still seems to be the other way around, but perhaps not for long. Could you talk/ show us through some sustainable fish species next perhaps?

    Feb 13, 2012 | 10:34 am

     
  21. elma says:

    so lucky that crabs abound in our province in Bataan. the most saleable are the “gay” crabs. sarap!

    Feb 13, 2012 | 11:25 am

     
  22. Manny says:

    Wow this is so helpful. I just came from Seaside Dampa at Baclaran last week and bought some crabs. All I could do was tell the tindera to give me the best she had and promising in return I would buy from her again if I found the crabs tasty. It was fresh and sweet. So am definitely returning to buy more from my ‘suki’. I guess you can say am lucky with the tindera. But with this article i come armed better informed.

    It would complete my buying know-how if you could also explain how to choose the ‘meatier’ crab. Am not sure if it’s true but I remember our maid telling me a long time ago that one would have to pinch the crab on the side (the part close to the edge where the appendages meet the main body). If it turns out soft, then the crab may have been in the cage for long and has grown thin, on the other hand, if the crab is feels ‘fuller’ on the pinch, then the crab may be considered fresh of the catch.

    thanks in advance.

    Feb 13, 2012 | 3:36 pm

     
  23. ms philippines blogger says:

    I’m not into the gender of the crab kasi kain lang ako ng kain! Haha..sarap nyan sa kasama ang sinabawang gata na may alimango. The best sa tanghalian at hapunan.

    Feb 13, 2012 | 3:40 pm

     
  24. james1 says:

    How kind of you, MM, to educate us of your food experiences and in the process touch our conscience on how food and its sources should be treated.

    Feb 13, 2012 | 4:38 pm

     
  25. Risa says:

    “Massive all mangrove island” reminds me of that carnivorous island flora in the Life of Pi.

    I was lucky to visit the floating SEAFDEC facility near Guimaras and saw a pair of close to 100kilo grouper and 12-17kilo bangus. I was also lucky to taste HUGE diwal or angel wing shell around the length of my hand. There was a time they were harvested to almost extinction.

    You do recall that vicious rumor/scandal that the meatiest, juciest crabs are raised in the poso n____. Eww.

    May I commend your cook for giving these crabs a good scrub, they are positively worthy of their close ups!

    Feb 13, 2012 | 10:37 pm

     
  26. psychomom says:

    was chuckling over your descriptions of the various crabs. i do agree with you that we need to consume only sustainable products in order to prevent extinction. thank you for getting the message out there even if only to the numerous readers of the blog.

    Feb 13, 2012 | 10:43 pm

     
  27. Footloose says:

    Gerry, thanks for the link. The picture of infinitesimal crab spawns reminds me of the bangus binhi my mom use to buy for her fishpond. Barely visible to the naked eye as they swam around, they were actually sold by the piece. They were scooped with a coconut half shell and actually counted individually. Imagine how long it took to count out ten thousand (isang laksa) of these tiny fries.

    Feb 13, 2012 | 11:03 pm

     
  28. Gerry says:

    Just realized that the quality of the female crabs in the pictures above were terrible. Vendors usually open the back with a small knife to see if the crab has the orange roe. For males, I was told to press the bottom sides of the shell as the above comment of Manny explained. The undersides of the carapaces in the pictures above seem too clean and devoid of any fat, which is not a good indication of the quality of the crabs.

    Feb 14, 2012 | 1:26 am

     
  29. Footloose says:

    Ain’t necessarily so. When the crab is fat and chockfull of coral, the cooked solidified coral actually dislodges completely in one piece and leaves the carapace clean as in the pictures. Or they just held the greenish meconium-like matter that is totally revolting and were therefore washed off.

    Feb 14, 2012 | 2:14 am

     
  30. chilli says:

    Has anybody seen the 10% of mangrooves left left…? in the whole philippine islands? WE
    should be soooo very sad, and DO something about the environment ‘coz there will be no more of these succulent mud crabs to be found. Google-Map…..we used to be famous for mud crabs in my local birthplace-Panguil Bay,Misamis Occidental. The mangrooves are nearly gone, the locals cut most of the trees for firewood and erected payag-payags on the mangroove area near the mouth of the river….and all other human waste to go with it.

    30 years ago- no one listened about conservation or doing anything about the environment.
    now_is it really too late? what about our next generation as in our grand children’s children?

    Feb 14, 2012 | 6:47 am

     
  31. Mylene says:

    Thank you very much for giving me more info on the crab/alimango. It’s my favorite seafood. My grandmother introduced me to the alimasag/alimango when I was around 5 supposedly as a cure for bed-wetting – she says if I eat a lot of it, I won’t pee in bed. As an obedient child, I ate lots of it and for some strange reason, did not pee in bed…oh well. She also taught me how to distinguish the genders (by looking at the flaps just like you wrote) and to eat the bakla (or the female virgin after reading your article), if I wanted the “malaman na matamis” or the adult female, if I wanted aligue. The male was always last on the list.

    Feb 18, 2012 | 11:45 am

     
  32. dred says:

    Hi MM,

    You can also determine the gender of the crabs through its “aligue”. Noticed the creamy texture of the aligue of a gay crab? The meat is also sweeter compared to regular female (maybe because they are younger) . I like to eat this kind over mature female but on top of my list is really male crabs.

    Gay crabs also grows to be either female or male over time (you can tell from their apron).

    Apr 17, 2012 | 9:51 pm

     
 

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