At a recent charity auction for the benefit of a small school in Metro Manila, my wife and I donated â€œThe Ultimate Crabby Dinner.â€ To be hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Marketman at our home, it promised a minimum of 10 kilos of top quality live weight crabs among other dishes and if desired, the chef and host could be “crabby” all evening! We were pleasantly surprised and most grateful when the bidding ended as the dinner was purchased for a cool PHP20,000!!! Yikes, talk about performance anxietyâ€¦ In the days that followed, some discussions with the winning bidder pushed me more towards an Asian inspired menu for the main courses but there was some difficulty pulling it all togetherâ€¦
First, the setting. A table for ten guests was set with red plates, large red kitchen towels rather than napkins due to the splattering nature of crab eating and some young light green hydrangeas. Votive candles were used for a warm glow and small, fresh dalandans for visual interest and a subtle citrus fragrance. We started the meal with a toast to the donors and the school that was to receive the donationâ€¦ a well-chilled bottle of Dom Perignon 1996 was a fool-proof way to lift everyoneâ€™s spiritsâ€¦ and it did not disappointâ€¦ crisp, light, dry and memorable.
As a starter, we had a prawn cocktail with a dill and lemon mayonnaise and standard tomato and horseradish cocktail sauce. This was served with a salad of shaved locally grown fennel and Satsuma oranges. I brined the jumbo prawns (air flown from Capiz) for about 1.5 hours in the refrigerator and this seemed to make them extra tasty and succulentâ€¦a good match with the champagne. For the main course we had crabs three ways: first, a simple butter, olive oil and garlic dish that was sprinkled with chopped flat leaf Italian parsley that was both simple and delicious and turned out to be the eveningâ€™s favorite. Next, a Marketman classic chilli crab with a serious dose of sili labuyo and lots of wansoy â€“ this was great with rice or in Singaporean fashion, served with soft white bread to wipe up the sauce and keep your mouth on fire! The third dish was a sotanghon and crab casserole with soy sauce and oyster sauce that was my personal favorite.
For one of the guests who was allergic to crabs, we served rare angus steaks that several of the other diners had as well. We also had a spicy green mango salad/relish and lots of gai lan or Chinese broccoli with a simple oyster sauce to go with the crab dishes. The guests brought several different bottles of white and red wines that flowed throughout the meal. Dessert was a bit over the top, starting with a â€œcaramelâ€ plate. Several mini-banana turon served with dulce de leche (boiled down milk and sugar that is sinfully rich and like warm caramel). There was also a nice wedge of a dark leche flan (more on the bitter than purely sweet side made with fresh carabaoâ€™s milk. The caramel plate was finished with some dulce de leche ice cream to cool the palate but continue the caramel theme. Guests also helped themselves to some cake and superb cebu mangoes. Finally, with coffee or tea, we served home-made chocolate truffles that were surprisingly good (and recipe to follow in the weeks ahead)â€¦