Go to the market without a list every so often. Buy what looks, smells and feels good. Recently, we had guests at the beach for lunch and I went to the Nasugbu market with no pre-conceived notions other than to have seafood on the table by noon. Town markets are always interesting but highly unpredictable. One day they have tons of crab and on another no crab at all. They are dependent on what the boats have brought back overnight. On this visit, one vendor had a simply stunning offering of 7 small and very fresh (i.e. just dying) spiny lobsters. On offer at a very, very reasonable price of P400 for the lot, I scooped them all up without hesitating. Back home, they were grilled and drizzled with a lemon, butter and dill sauce. They were absolutely delicious and wickedly easy.
Lobsters in tropical waters do not have the characteristic large claws of cold water or Atlantic lobsters. Nevertheless, they still taste great. These spiny lobsters are typically reef dwellers and hide in the rocks and come out to feed, often at night. They are different from the flatter, generally muckier specimens that are sometimes called mud lobsters. On closer inspection, the detailing and color of the spiny lobster shells is simply spectacular. The bright blue color just below their eyes is other worldly. Larger specimens can be a vivid green and blue and the freshest live ones can be spunky little buggers. Larger ones are available alive at Seaside Mart in Baclaran for P1200-1400 a kilo or dead at P700 a kilo.
One Christmas Eve a dinner guest sent a dozen of the best green spiny lobsters (which were about Â¾ kilo each and very much alive) that I decided to serve poached and cold with a tomato salad. The lobsters were so fresh that they fought like mad to avoid being dropped into the poaching liquid. Gripping the sides of the pots, they were like something out of a bad segment on a Food Channel cooking show. Our cook was mortified and grabbed tongs and tried to push them into the cauldron. Yikes. â€˜Murderers!â€™ they thought silently in their colorful shells.
Anyway, back to the Nasugbu lobsters. Melt a lot of butter in a small saucepan and turn off the flame. Add lots of chopped dill to the butter and set aside. Light a barbecue and get the coals nice and hot. Take the lobsters, turn them over on their back and take a sharp knife and plunge it into the soft portion just below the eyes. Cut the lobsters in half through the soft shell underbelly. Brush the meat and shells with some olive or vegetable oil. Put dabs of sweet butter on the meat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place shell down (meat facing the sky) on the grill and barbecue for just a few minutes until meat is just opaque. You may want to cover the grill to ensure the top of the lobsters are cooked. Watch very carefully as the combination of oil and butter may cause large flames. Remove as soon as they look cooked, if they are too dry they are overcooked. Shells will be brittle but should be a bright orange rather than scorched black. Place on a nice platter and reheat butter sauce if desired and pour over the cooked lobster. Serve with lemon wedges. Eat with your hands. Friends never fail to take all the extra butter dill sauce and soak steamed rice with it to eat with the lobster. I accept no responsibility for your cholesterol count. If you need further eating instructions, see the movie â€œFlashdanceâ€ and look for the lobster scene. It was almost as memorable as the famous restaurant scene in â€œWhen Harry Met Sally.â€