Crabmeat is loved for their sweet and fragrant briny flavour. Crabs are truly the flavour of the ocean. Are you among those seafood-lovers, who will definitely order crabs whenever you head to a seafood restaurant? I am sure there are many foodies who love eating crabs, but never bothered of cooking them at home. So do you cook crabs at home? Try your hands at cooking crabs. It is much cheaper to cook them at home. So at the same cost, isn’t it all the more tempting to enjoy four crabs instead of two? Additionally, when you cook crabs at home, you know that you are using only fresh crabs for your dish. In many seafood restaurants, they cook dead crabs, which develops toxins. We will discuss later, on how and why dead crabs develop toxins and why you should never eat dead crabs.
Eating crabs can be messy and “noisy”! At home, it is more comfortable to break a crab and eat it in your own way, without bothering if someone sitting at the next table is staring at the way you are eating your crab. Also, cooking crabs at home gives a different level of thrill! If you are wondering, how to cook crabs, then scroll down and try our favourite no-fail Singaporean Crab Curry recipe. We love to cook crabs with shells on. Cooking with the shells not only makes the dish look colourful, but the shells also prevent the crabs from being overcooked!
Soft-shelled blue crabs are prized for the flavour. These are popular because you can easily break the shell to dig into succulent crab meat. The full-grown hard shell of a blue crab is shed in the Summers, and what you get is the awesome, melt-in-the-mouth soft-shell crab!
When buying crabs, live ones are definitely the best, although these are not always easy to find. Cleaning a crab is tricky and methodical, but it is very easy once you learn the steps. You just need a nutcracker for this. Alternately, to make things easier, you can tell the fishmonger to dress (clean) the crabs for you.
Best time to buy crabs in Mumbai
People buy crabs during new moon, as crabs come out of the sea during that time. In Mumbai, the months between December and February are ideal for buying crabs. As the temperature gets colder, crabs start appearing more in Mumbai wet markets. Again during the monsoons, crabs appear in the market. Buy crabs when these have grown to a good size and have shed their hard shell (molting). When the crabs have molted, these become soft-shelled. These soft-shell crabs are easier to eat and have more meat!
Size of the crabs
If you just assumed that big crabs are always good because they are more expensive, let me tell you that big crabs are the blandest. Always buy medium-sized ones. Small crabs are, again, less flavourful as compared to the medium-ones.
Male or female?
If you ask us, both are good. The male crabs are less in meat in the body, but have thick and meaty claws. The female ones have thin claws, but the body has more meat content. People say, female crabs generally taste better.
Don’t buy dead crabs!
Crab should always be cooked fresh and live, otherwise it develops toxins. The hepatopancreas in the crabs have digestive enzymes.When the crab dies, the enzymes in hepatopancreas degrade the crab meat. As time passes, many other proteins in the meat start degrading too. Slowly, the bacteria in the crab gut eat those degraded proteins and produce harmful substances. So when we cook a dead crab at this stage, these bacteria die, but these toxins enter our body. This is the reason we should always eat fresh crabs and for the same reason, good seafood restaurants in Mumbai always show you live crabs as you order a crab dish.This ensures that you can eat the crab dish without any doubt. Buy live crabs and cook them right away. Or, put the tied live crabs directly in the deep freezer, so that the meat doesn’t get spoilt even when the crab dies.
To check whether a crab is dead or live, touch the eyes of a crab. If the eyes go inside the shell, the crab is still live! In Mumbai, you commonly get Mud crabs, and this is the preferred species to buy here, as these are the only species that are sold “live” in Mumbai markets.
Dressing the crabs
While dressing the crab, remove the following: the tail flaps on the underside, the hard shell, the soft gills and the stomach sac. Pull out the apron of the crab’s bell. This apron is the circular segment on a female crab’s belly, whereas a male crab’s apron is the pointed segment in the belly). Crack the claws. You can even cut the body into half. The yellow tasty stuff inside is the hepatopancreas of the crab and is edible only if the crab is fresh.
Singaporean Crab Curry with White Pepper
Time taken: 30 min
- Fresh mud crabs (dressed, medium-sized): 2
- Freshly ground white peppercorns: 2 tbsp
- Spring onions (sliced): 1/2 cup
- Soy sauce: 3 tbsp
- Oyster sauce: 3 tbsp
- Chinese five spice powder: 1/2 tsp
- Garlic cloves (finely chopped): 7
- Rice wine (optional): 3.5 tbsp
- Peanut oil: 1 tsp
- Butter: 3 tbsp
- Chicken stock: 1 cup
- Coconut milk: 1 cup
- Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp
- Caster sugar: 1/2 tsp
- Salt: 1/2 tsp
- Coriander leaves (chopped): handful
- Smear the crab pieces with salt and marinate for 10 min. Heat the mixture of peanut oil and butter. Add the crabs and fry on either side for just 4 min, until the crab pieces just change colour.
- Remove the crabs. In the same oil, add the spring onions and garlic and saute for 2 min. Add the rest of the ingredients (except coriander leaves and chicken stock) and saute for 5 min on a medium flame.
- Add the crabs and the turmeric powder and saute again for 2 min. Add the chicken stock and the coconut milk. Cover and simmer, stirring occassionally, until the gravy is almost dry and thick. This should take 10 min. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve immediately with steamed rice.