If you like crab but can't stomach the idea of being a crab killer, flower crab would be right up your alley. The blue crustaceans are mostly sold dead; live ones caught by local kelongs are available only once in a blue, blue moon, when you're extremely lucky. Or maybe unlucky if you're not into buying food that's still moving.
The taste of flower crab is quite different from that of the ubiquitous mud crab. Because flower crabs live in the sea, the meat tastes cleaner and sweeter than their muddy cousins which live in river estuaries. There's also a difference in texture. Flower crab is smooth, delicate and moist whereas mud crab, if it's big, can be quite coarse, overly firm and a bit dry. Both types of crab are the same though when they're not fresh – mushy and gross!
Do I prefer mud or flower crab? Hmm . . . they're different, as different as, say, mud crab and prawns. I like 'em both but if I really had to choose, I'd say fresh, good quality flower crab is actually nicer than live mud crab.
Most flower and mud crab recipes are interchangeable, but there're a few that aren't if you're a fusspot like me. Chilli Crab, for instance, should be made with mud crab. Curry powder, on the other hand, goes with flower crab. If flower crab isn't available, I think prawns would make a better substitute than mud crab. Mind you, if you put a plate of mud crab curry in front of me, I'd still eat it and enjoy it. I never say no to crab, and I've never met any crab I don't like so long as it's fresh.
With the help of a pack of readymade curry powder, making Flower Crab Dry Curry takes no more than 15 minutes from start to finish: four minutes to clean and chop four crabs, and three minutes to peel and chop some shallots and garlic, leaving eight minutes to stir-fry. Do you have 15 minutes to make a delicious crab dish? Of course you do! Do you have time to eat it though? Of course you do! What could be better than picking out the meat bit by bit from the nooks and crannies?
Some people like to stop and smell the roses but me, I prefer to stop and eat crab.
|FLOWER CRAB DRY CURRY|
(Recipe for 4 persons)
2½ tbsp vegetable oil
60 g shallots
peel, rinse and mince finely40 g garlic
peel and mince roughly30 g curry powder for chicken (I use Nonya brand)
add 3 tbsp water and stir to make a thick paste4 flower crabs (aka blue crabs) weighing about 1 kg
discard abdominal flap; separate shell from body; discard gills, and stomach in shell; rinse thoroughly and drain; twist off pincers and crack slightly with side or back of cleaver; chop and discard last joint of small claws; chop each crab into 4 quarters40 ml light soya sauce
2 eggs, beaten
Heat well-seasoned wok till just smoking. Add vegetable oil and heat till very hot. Add shallots and stir-fry over high heat till translucent. Add garlic and stir-fry till slightly golden. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add curry paste and stir-fry till fragrant, drizzling with 2-3 tsp water at a time if spices stick to wok. Do not add too much water in one go or you'd be simmering instead of frying. If you like, you could fry with more oil instead so that curry paste doesn't stick.
Increase heat to high. Add crab. Stir-fry till thoroughly mixed and heated through, again drizzling with 2-3 tsp water at a time to deglaze spices that stick to wok. Drizzle with light soya sauce. Stir till absorbed. Add enough water to cover half of crab, about ⅓ cup. Bring to a boil, stirring to mix well. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 3 minutes. Stir, then cover and simmer another 3 minutes.
Crab should be cooked now. To check, pick a piece which has a pinky and ring claw and snip between the two claws with a pair of scissors. Meat is cooked if firm and opaque.
Increase heat to medium-high. Stir to mix crab and curry sauce thoroughly. Turn shells upside down, i.e. cavity facing up. Drizzle a bit of curry sauce into shells, and then a bit of egg. Drizzle remaining egg on crab. Let egg set slightly, about 5 seconds. Stir to mix through. Sauce should now be just thick enough to coat crab. Adjust if necessary by adding a bit of water if too dry, or cooking a bit longer if too watery. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning if necessary. Plate and serve.
Pssst! I'll let you in on a little secret. The eggy curry sauce is more yummy than the crab!