Stir-Fried Crab with Black Bean Sauce

Stir-Fried Crab with Black Bean Sauce
Ingredients
  • 1 live Dungeness crab, 1 1/2 to 2 pounds, or 2 pounds live blue crabs
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced green onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese fermented black beans, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock or water
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
  • Shredded green onion tops or cilantro leaves, for garnish
Time estimates

Prep time: 30 min  

Cook time: 30 min 

Total time: 1 hour 

Directions

1. Place the crab in a deep pot with cool water to cover by several inches.
2. Cover the pot and set over high heat.
3. Check after about 8 minutes; by the time the water reaches 100˚F the crab will be dead but not cooked.
4. Remove the crab with tongs (leave the water heating) and rinse it with cold water to stop the cooking.
5. Grasp the underside and legs of the crab with one hand and pull off the top shell (carapace) with the other. Pull out and reserve the fat and organs from the corners of the top shell, rinse the shell well, and return it to the pot to cook until bright red, another 5 minutes or so.
6. To clean the crab, remove the triangular "apron" on the underside, being careful of the spines hidden underneath. Remove the jaws, the gills (the gray, feathery pieces on each side of the body) and all the spongy greenish tissue in the center of the body. Rinse the crab well until nothing but shell and meat remains.
7. Split the body in half with the knife if you have not already done so, then cut between the legs to make 10 pieces, each containing part of the body.
8. Combine the ginger, onion, garlic, and black beans in a bowl.
9. Combine the soy sauce, wine, and stock in another bowl, together with a tablespoon or two of the reserved crab fat if you like.
10. Heat a wok over low heat for a couple of minutes, then turn the heat to high.
11. Add the oil in a thin stream around the edge of the wok.
12. Add the ginger mixture and stir-fry a few seconds.
13. Add the crab pieces and stir-fry until the shells begin to turn red.
14. Add the soy sauce mixture.
15. Cover and cook until the shells are entirely red and all the exposed meat is opaque white; lift the lid every minute or so and toss the mixture to ensure even cooking.
16. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook until the sauce thickens and becomes glossy.
17. Transfer to a serving platter and take a moment to arrange the pieces in a more or less lifelike pattern.
18. Set the boiled shell on top and garnish the platter with green onions or cilantro.

Yield

Makes 3 to 4 servings with other dishes

Good to know

One of the favorite Cantonese ways to prepare just about anything that comes out of the water is in black bean sauce.

Which beer should I drink with this?

Pilsner or hefeweizen.

Notes

1. The black beans in this case are not ordinary dried black beans, but soybeans that have been partially fermented and preserved in a soft state with salt. When chopped and added to stir-fried dishes or sauces, they act like little nuggets of soy sauce. Look for them in half-pound plastic bags (usually labeled "salted black bean") or half-kilogram cylindrical cardboard packages (the excellent Yang Jiang brand) in Asian groceries; they will keep indefinitely at room temperature.

Variations

The same sauce works well on lobster, as well as quicker-cooking items like shrimp, clams, squid, or cubes of chicken. For the latter, stir-fry the seafood first until nearly done, then remove it while you assemble and reduce the sauce. Return the seafood to the sauce just to reheat. 

The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook 

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From The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook, Copyright © 2002 by Jay Harlow. Used by arrangement with Jay Harlow.

Photo: ZUMA Press