Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Singapore style chili crabs are my favorite food in the world. The confluence of fresh delicious Dungeness crabs, spicy-ass chili sauce, and snappy green onions is magical for me, pure alchemy, the sort of thing I can see myself chomping through endless servings of in some unnamed and undefined Elysian Field after I am dead and gone. I am considering a journey to Singapore for the primary purpose of eating crabs until I am throughly sick. I badger my poor long suffering father constantly to make them for me whenever I am home.
This has taken on the ken of ritual, to me: the visit to the local Asian market, where we jockey for position at the aquarium table (the one with the tank of live frogs) to get our live crabs, the purchase of a long French roll from the bakery next-door. The rustling of the live crabs in the plastic covered brown paper bag we receive them in. When we come in with the crabs and put them in the fridge, my mom inevitably repeating the old story about her cook in Hong Kong long ago, who enjoyed placing the crabs on the kitchen floor then going to get the family cat (always named Sam, as was family custom), who would become petrified with fear at the sight of enormous crustaceans on his very own kitchen floor.
My dad boils the crabs until they stop scrabbling at the sides of the stockpot, of course, that's something you can't avoid. I'd like to believe there's something elemental there, like what a hunter supposedly feels after stabbing a wild boar to death or whatever, then sitting down for a nice dinner of its prepared and deliciously braised flesh. But I suppose it isn't really the same, with crabs from the Asian grocery store. Not really.
SINGAPORE CHILI CRABS
Dungeness crabs (as many as you'd like)
Red bell pepper
Sambal chili-garlic sauce (not sricha)
A little bit of corn starch
To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. This is a very subjective thing, so tweak ingredients according to your taste and personal proclivities.
Boil the crabs until they dead, then take them apart. The Chinese style of "whacking apart with a cleaver" works tolerably well in this instance.
Get out your big-ass wok and add the garlic, the onion, and the red bell pepper. Cook for a while until soft and fragrant.
Add the crabs en-masse. Stir-fry until they're just done (you don't want to overcook them). This usually takes around four or five minutes, but keep an eye on things. Once that's achieved, add the sauce ingredients and stir well. Finally, add the chopped green onions and serve.
I usually make Chinese broccoli, greens, or stir-fried long beans with pork to accompany this dish. Fried rice would also be a delightful addition to the menu. Serve with sake or beer, and don't forget to spread out some newspapers - you won't regret it.