Cua Rang Me (Crab in Tamarind Sauce)

Cua Rang Me (Crab in Tamarind Sauce)

This is my go to recipe whenever I’m craving crab! I love love love the sweet, lightly sour, and savory taste of the sauce. 

 Prep Time: 30 minutes | Cook Time: 30 minutes | Total Working Time: 60 minutes
Servings: 2, possibly 3 (and in my case, all for me!)
 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 live Dungeness or 4-5 blue crabs (~3 pounds)
  • 16 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1.5 cups and 2 tablespoons of water
  • 3.5 tablespoons of tamarind pulp
  • 4 ounces of palm sugar or 8 tablespoons of granulated sugar (see note #1)
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 3 stalks scallion, chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon of chicken bouillon powder
  • 1 cups of cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper
  •  Oil for frying
  • 1 Thai chili pepper or 1 jalapeno, sliced (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water (optional, see note #2)
NOTE:
  1. Palm sugar has a very mild caramel flavor. The palm sugar I used came in a coin like shape and they’re about 2 ounces each piece. 1 ounce is approximately 2 tablespoons. In this case, I used 2 “coins” so that’s around 8 tablespoons of granulated sugar.
  2. This can be used to thicken the tamarind sauce if you like a thicker consistency. 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1.  The first and hardest step is to kill the crab. To quickly and effectively kill a crab, pierce the middle of its underside with a sharp knife.
  2. Scrub the crab with a brush to clean it. 
  3. Break and discard the triangular abdominal flap on its underside and the mouth (bony section from the front end of the shell). 
  4. Remove the hard shell from the rest of the body. I recommend doing this in the sink over a large clean plate or bowl as you do not want to lose any of the crab tomalley (the yellow/greenish substance, it may look unappetizing but trust me, it’s where all the flavor is at). 
  5. Once the hard shell is removed, use a spoon and scrap the tomalley from the shell and place into a bowl. Set aside for later.
  6. Remove the gills as they are not edible. 
  7. For Dungeness crabs – chop the crab in half, then chop each of those pieces into three even pieces. You should get 6 pieces per crab. For blue crabs – chop the crab in half, then half both pieces. You should get 4 pieces per crab. 
  8. Pat the crab dry with paper towels and set aside.
  9. Add cornstarch and pepper into a large bowl. Mix well.
  10. Toss the crab in the bowl to evenly coat it with the cornstarch mixture. 
  11. Place a paper towel on a clean plate and set aside. This will be used to soak up the excess oil of the fried crab in the next step. 
  12. Heat 2-3 inch of oil in a wok or pot on medium-high. Once the oil is hot, drop the crab pieces in a single layer to flash fry. Do not overcrowd the wok or pot. Flip the crab pieces after 30 seconds. Remove and place them on the plate with paper towel once they turn red. Repeat until all the pieces are fried. Set aside to let them cool down a bit.
  13. In the meantime, add water, tamarind pulp, and palm sugar in a small sauce pot. Bring to a boil and stir until the pulp is well combined with the water and the sugar is all melted. Once it is well combined, taste and add more sugar if it the sauce is too sour. Let it simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and scoop out the tamarind pulp. You can also run the liquid through a sieve to fully remove all the pulp. Set the sauce aside.
  14.  The fried crab should be cool enough to handle now. Use the flat side of a cleaver or large knife to gently crack the crab claws and legs. This will allow the sauce to penetrate and get absorbed in the meat.
  15. Heat up 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan on medium-high heat OR you can reuse the wok from the last step. If you are reusing the wok, I suggest pouring the oil used to fry the crab into another container and heat up 3 tablespoons of new oil. 
  16. Once the oil is hot, toss in the minced garlic and stir-fry for ~45 seconds or until it is fragrant. 
  17. Add in the onion and stir fry for 1 minute. 
  18. Add in the crab tomalley and cook for 2 minutes.
  19. Add in the tamarind sauce, fish sauce, chicken bouillon powder and Thai chili pepper or jalapeno. Stir until fully combined and let the sauce mixture simmer for 2 minutes. If you want a thicker consistency, mix the teaspoon of cornstarch with a tablespoon of water and pour into the pan. Let it simmer for an additional 2 minutes. 
  20. Add the crab pieces into the wok or pan. Mix to coat them evenly with the sauce. Cover and let simmer for 3 minutes. 
  21. Uncover, plate, and enjoy! Serve with a bowl of steaming rice if you’re like me and can’t go a day without a bowl of rice. 

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