Mum and Dad have a house on the beach in Queensland. The sands are white, the sea is changeable with the weather but on a calm day you can go out on the boat and see the bottom. In the distance you can see the sand dunes of Moreton Island. It’s a truly beautiful place. As a child, we would go camping there but as I approached adulthood Mum and Dad built a house with the view of retirement. These days, when we visit Australia we stay at the beach house. Not surprisingly, there is a bountiful supply of seafood. This Garlic Chili Crab is my Dad’s specialty.
It’s often served up for visitors. The first step, for him, is to go crabbing at the nearby creek. While we were staying there, my kids loved helping their granddad pull in the crabpots. Depending on the season, he will either catch Mud Crabs, like the one below, or sand crabs. Depending on where you live, you will have access to different crabs. In the Pacific Northwest, I buy Dungeness as they are readily accessible. If you have large crabs, you will need 2 crabs for this recipe. For smaller varieties, you will need 3 crabs.
Once you have your crabs, you will need to clean them and break them into pieces. This is the part that I do not like. In fact, I have never done it myself. Seafood grosses me out at the best of times, but dealing with a creature that could nip me in the process is beyond what I can handle. There is a reason why I have waited this long to post this recipe, as I wanted my Dad to handle the crabs! For a good article on how to clean a crab, read Preparing Crabs for Cooking. Breaking them into smaller segments will make it easier for eating later.
The next step is to prepare the ingredients. Things move quickly once the cooking starts, so having everything ready makes the process simpler. The brown liquid at the back is the soy sauce, ketchup, sweet chili sauce and water.
Once the oils are heated, the spring onions, chili, ginger and garlic are fried until softened. The crab is added and you stir the crab until it is starting to get red tinges, as seen in the photo below. Once the crab starts turning, add the soy sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Cook, covered for 8 minutes.
Once the crab is cooked, transfer it to a platter and top it off with green onions. The sauce that is left in the pan is thickened with cornstarch then coconut milk is added.
This is one very messy but delicious meal. Mum is a great hostess – so she always has little bowls of hot water with lemon on the table, along with moist towelettes so people can clean their crabby fingers as they eat!
- 2 Mud or Dungeness crabs, increase to 3 for sand crabs
- 6 spring onions
- 2 mild red chili
- 1 knob fresh ginger, approx. 1 1/2 inch
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
- 3 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
- ½ cup water
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 small can coconut milk
- Clean the crabs and remove claws. Crack all segments of the crab, cutting bodies into thirds and leaving legs attached.
- Finely chop the whites of the spring onions, chili, ginger and garlic. Reserve the green tops of the spring onions for garnish.
- Heat the peanut and sesame oil in a large heavy based pan.
- Fry the spring onions, chili, ginger and garlic until softened (approx. 1-2 minutes)
- Add the crab pieces to the pot and stir until the crab is coated in the oils and getting red tinges.
- Mix the soy sauce, ketchup, sweet chili sauce and water together in a small bowl. Add to the crab and bring to boil. Cook, covered for 8 minutes.
- Transfer the crab to a platter. Cover with foil to keep warm.
- Thicken the juices in the pan with cornstarch. Add the coconut milk and whisk briskly.
- Pour a little sauce over the crab then pour the remaining sauce into a gravy boat. Garnish the crab with the chopped spring onion ends.
- Serve with the sauce, rice and steamed vegetables such as carrots, bell peppers, whole peas or broccoli.