, DECEMBER 12, 2007  (STAR) EAT’S EASY By Ernest Reynoso Gala - Crab has always been one of my favorites, because it is easy to prepare and, when cooked properly, can put a lot of smiles and a delightful challenge to savor at the dinner table. At the Singaporean Crab Festival where over 500 guests attended, I had the opportunity to try chilli crab, one the country’s signature dishes. My fascination brought me to Sylvia Tan, food writer of five cookbooks and editor for the Straits Times and New Paper, where I studied authentic Singaporean cooking. Here are some of the tips I learned and would like to share with you.

There are three types of crabs on the market. The first is the blue crab, which can be found in North and South Atlantic; the second is the King Crab, which can be found in the deep sea of the Alaskan region; and the third is the Dungeness crab, which is found in the Pacific region.

Soft-shelled crabs, which are very popular nowadays, are plucked from the ocean before the crab shell has hardened or matured, giving a soft, tender exterior, and are often deep fried for tempura.

Male crabs have a sharp pointed belly and are chosen for their large, meaty claws. Female crabs have a round belly, and are chosen for their rich fat (or what we commonly know as aligue or crab fat) and delicious crab meat.

When buying crab, it is advisable to weigh the crab and also press under the eyes. If water comes out, the vendor might be adding weight to the crab by filling the crab with water to get a heavier weight. Fresh or live crabs give best results.

Cook live crabs immediately. Otherwise, plunge in boiling water with a little lemon or calamansi juice. Allow 15 minutes per kilo to cook, and then remove from the water.

Another way is to store live crab in the freezer. This allows the crab to die without struggle, keeping the meat tender and juicy. This is called “putting the crab to sleep.”

When the crabs are cooked, detach the shell from the body and the spongy gills. The claws are cracked with the back of a knife or mallet for easy access. Overcooking crab will leave a dry and tough meat.

Crabs with Rixin Scallop XO Sauce

2 medium crabs, about 500 grams

For the sauce:

2 cups cooking oil

1/4 cup Rixin scallop XO sauce — mild or extra hot

1 cup Hunt’s tomato sauce

For garnish:

1/2 cup wansuey or 1/2 cup Spring onions

Prepare the crabs. Remove the upper shell and “sponge.” Cut the body into two. Crack the claws.

Heat the oil until hot in a wok. Add XO sauce and crabs. Mix well. Cover and simmer over a low fire for five minutes. Add tomato sauce. Turn the crabs over. Cover and simmer for five minutes more.

Put on a serving plate. Top with wansuey or spring onions.


Rixin scallop XO sauce is available from Wei Wang at 726-1349; at Little Store at 721-9174; and from Sabrina Yu at 241-3660 or 371-3466. It’s made from dried scallops, garlic, red chilli pepper, ham, and shrimp bits.

Baked Crabs with Garlic Butter

4 crabs, total one kilo

For the garlic butter:

1 cup melted butter

1/4 cup crushed garlic

1 tablespoon rock salt

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

1 teaspoon ground peppercorns

juice of lemon, about 1/4 cup

Crack the claws of the crab. Put the crabs on top of a foil. Pour the sauce over.

Close the foil. Place on a baking tray. Bake at 400°F or 200°C for 30 minutes.

Open foil. Top with 1/2 cup thinly sliced leeks or spring onions.

Discoveries of the Week

• Slax bread, malunggay bread, and the all-time favorite best-seller raisin bread are available at Pugon Master, 29 CRM Amelita St., BF Homes, Almanza, Las Piñas

• A must-try is the Zuppa Inglese or rum cake at Cassanova, located at the clubhouse of Corinthian Hills, Temple Drive, Quezon City. Very creamy and rich, this is one of my favorite desserts in town.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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