Kagang & Pasgang / Crab & Crab Trap

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While we sat leisurely under a thatched roof gazebo in the Clarin Ancestral Home, I noticed that the lawn was “pockmarked” with substantial holes surrounded by dirt around the edges. It was almost as if someone was digging down looking for buried treasure. Duhh, turns out it was a type of native mud crab(s) digging OUT of their underground abodes to seek food and sunshine up above! How odd is that? I have NEVER come across these types of crab before. The house was built over sandy soil, some 50-100 meters perhaps from the sea shore. And there was a major two lane road between the property and the sea… so these critters were tunneling quite a bit of distance to get here from the sea! The staff at the cafe said there just tons and tons of these crabs and they actually caught them to eat!

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They showed us a large ceramic pot in the yard, which housed their current catch, OMG, there must have been a dozen large “kagang” or crabs, mean looking things with reddish brown claws. They were very much alive but a bit ticked to be imprisoned in this pot. At least they had some grass clippings and a plate of grated coconut to keep them amused.

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Apparently, locals like to cook them in a stew of coconut milk and heavy with shredded coconut meat. They all readily admitted these weren’t as succulent or populat as the more well-known alimango and alimasag, but I guess you have to try them to really experience and taste the difference. I was a bit concerned that they were thriving in mud and soil and thought they might taste of soil, but I quickly realized alimango in ponds or mangroves were probably doing something very similar…

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We were shown the clever bamboo traps “pasgang” that were set out at night to catch the critters. Some bait is put in the bamboo cylinder, the crab enters and its movement within triggers the “gate” to snap closed. The ultimate environmentally friendly crabtrap. Cool.

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We left with one unsettling thought in my mind… imagine heading out to your backyard at night to smoke a cigarette or chat with friends and suddenly the lawn starts crawling to the soundtrack of the movie “Jaws”??? These kagang could easily bite off your little toes. Ughhh. :)

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30 Responses

  1. I wonder if the kagangs are the same as what the ilocanos call dakomo. They look very similar. Steamed dakomo with spicy vinegar dip and lots of rice and steamed ampalaya or kamote tops, yummy. Even better with bahaw.

  2. That last paragraph was really funny MM! First time for me to learn about the existence of this kind of crab.Thanks for always being informative. First photo is graphically interesting—like a fight arena!

  3. This post is just so delightful – sets a lot of us to wishing we live by the seashore and have access to these crabs for anytime dinner!! MM, I just love the way you poke around – and serendipitously, uncover such informative and charming vignettes.

  4. Hi MM,

    Weird looking crabs! Noticed something on your 3rd paragraph, you might have unknowingly missed a word between “as” and “the”.

    “They all readily admitted these weren’t as the more well-known alimango and alimasag”

  5. These crabs forsaking the sea and foraging inland remind me of our primordial ancestors coming to shore because they sensed that this is where the action was going to be. What we have in the fish ponds of Bataan is a type of crab called damoko (sounds like a Spoonerism of Mary Grace’s dakomo) which are similar in shape, size and hirsuteness to the celebrated Shanghai hairy crab.

    They look like creatures from outer space at close range.

  6. footloose, that is PRECISELY the description that escaped me. These did look like creatures (slighly evil ones at that) from outer space… my close up photos were blurry so I didn’t post any but their eyes alone are the stuff of horror movies…hahaha.

  7. oh, i don’t mind cooking those crabs with coconut cream, luya and lots
    of garlic!
    have you seen that no reservations program of anthony bourdain when
    he was in tahiti? anthony bourdain and some tahitians were feasting
    at the nearby beach. they caught several coconut crabs on the shore.
    they said that they call them coconut crabs because those creatures
    feast on dry coconuts scattered on the shore.

  8. Judging from your photos, they look like stones that mutated into crab, don’t they? Bodies don’t seem to have any edges where the upper and lower halves meet. Much like the crab at Pirates of the Caribbean. How big do they get, judging from the size of the traps, probably not all that large?

  9. The same martian looking crabs are aplenty up north. We got to taste them when we visited Santa Ana, Cagayan Valley/Palaui Island. The crabs were also cooked in coconut milk. I can no longer remember exactly how it tasted but I know medyo kakaiba ang lasa from the regular crabs that we know. Just the same, the five of us finished the 20+ pieces, orange-sized crabs that we bought for only P5.00 per piece!

  10. Wow! Kagang (or as my mom calls it “kakagang”)! I love this cooked as sinigang sa sampaloc and kamatis.

  11. This post is so informative and so funny! :) First time for me to see such crabs. I did took a second look at those crabs after you described them as creatures from outer space, hahaha… even without a close up photo, your second shot up there captured some very mean stares and THEY DO HAVE ALIEN EYES!

  12. MM…that last paragraph’s really funny

    F..I was thinking the same thing! they look like the stone crabs from the movie

  13. I know these crabs since we caught quite a few at a tennis court here in Hagatna, one night when my kids went to play tennis, ( the tennis court is quite far from the sea but I guess there’s a river nearby which flows out to the sea, hence the abundance of these crabs). These crabs were just scurrying around and there were quite a lot of it. The taste is not exactly what you would be looking forward to.

  14. They are called in our town in Quezon Province as the “katang” they are alike with alimango but they are very light and agile. they also have different color other than what is shown in the picture.
    They are delicious if boiled with water and a certain soda (sprite in particular). If the broth has evaporated, they are fried out of their own fat.
    hmmm. yummy…

  15. They call these crabs ”Kuray” in Tagalog…these are land crabs that inhabits near water ways and mangrove areas…kuray are not as good as alimango…

  16. MM, what’s the size of those crabs? Were they like fistful, or egg-sized?

    They look appetizing to me. Steamed lang puede na, then maybe dip it to sukang pinakurat!?

    Btw, those crab traps are pretty much the same to what my uncles used there in Ilocos. They lay it very late in the afternoon, then gather those in the early mornings.

  17. how about that ingenious crab trap? leave it up to the Filipinos to come up with something creative out of what nature provides!! here’s a salute to the pinoy ingenuity! (^_^)

  18. KUMAGCOW, I presume they make the traps by hand out of bamboo. And they are left above ground, when the crabs emerge at night in search of food.

  19. I haven’t tried kagang but they say it is dirty. I live in Tagbilaran and sometimes I see those crabs at the back of our house. One of our helpers would use the crabs to unclog toilet bowls. Just drop them and they will clear out the clogged toilet bowl :D

  20. On a not so related topic…I just finished a little over a kilo of Alaskan king crab legs (eaten over 3 days) about 4 huge legs…I think I will forego crabs for a few months….

    What a pig! (At least I have confirmed to myself I am not allergic to it :-) )

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