A very messy crab feast

Saturday morning I was inspired! I decided that fresh crab should be on the menu for dinner…and by fresh, I meant so fresh that the crabs should still be alive when we buy them. So we headed off to Springvale where the food is cheap and the crabs are alive.

Now for those of you who don’t know, Springvale is a suburb of Melbourne where  a lot of Vietnamese refugees were housed during the Vietnam war and today there is still a massive Asian population. In fact, the majority of the population of Springvale is Vietnamese. As a result, the shops all cater to their needs and the bargains and delicious foods are endless. You can always be guaranteed to find loads and loads of fresh Asian style produce at incredibly reasonable prices…not to mention the variety of foods that we just don’t see in regular westernised shops. The kids were fascinated to see the entire internal workings of pigs for sale in butcher shops, along with pig heads, chicken feet, cow and sheep tendons and the list goes on. Personally, I’m not so fascinated as much as repulsed by these sights but it was a whole new world for my boys and they loved it.

We made a beeline for our favourite seafood market and I was so pleased to see that they had live spanner crabs for sale. They also had live mud crabs and crayfish, but the spanner crabs, in my opinion, are much yummier! We picked out 4 nice big juicy ones and my middle son was in his element. He thought it was so fantastic handling these big orange crustaceans, but at the same time was a little tentative about the whole operation, worried he was going to lose a finger or something.

I also found some interesting Asian greens that I had never seen before (or if I have, I’ve never paid any attention to)….Chinese and Vietnamese celery. I was so excited! I also stumbled across massive bunches of chives….2 varieties…..and some garlic shoots, so of course I filled a basket with these things and started planning my very pungent stir fry in my head.

Next stop was an Asian supermarket. Now I’ve been into these things several times in my life but I have never paid so much attention to the vast array of noodles they have. I usually enter these establishments with a list of what I need and look at only those things. I was gob smacked at the different varieties of rice noodles of every shape and size you could imagine so again, I filled a basket. But my favourite discovery in the noodle aisle was the sweet potato noodles. I had heard about them a few year ago from a Chinese girl I worked with but had never seen them in a shop. Yes, I stocked up on them too and a HUGE pack of rice paper. You can probably guess what’s on the menu for this week and next…….

So back to the crabs. The kids thought it was quite hilarious walking around with a wriggling bag of crabs. They were also a little concerned about them escaping from the bag and crawling through the car….I had to giggle! Then there was the dilemma of how we were going to kill them. They were so concerned about being cruel to these animals so I had to explain that I planned to kill them humanely by popping them in the freezer to put them to sleep then plunge them into boiling water. My middle son asked why I didn’t just cut them open after they were asleep but I couldn’t even think about plunging a knife into them before they had been boiled, knowing that technically they’d still be alive. He was satisfied with my response.

Now I did toy with the idea of removing all the flesh from the crabs to toss through the stirfry but “not-hubby” suggested it would be fun for the kids to pick their own meat out of the shell and toss it on the table in front of them, plus it would be quicker and easier for me. I liked the sound of that! So we spread the table with newspaper and prepared ourselves for a very messy feast!

I must confess too, I am no expert at cooking crab, in fact, this was only my second ever attempt and the first time, the crab was cleaned and prepared for me by my trusty fish monger. I went into Saturday’s meal kind of blind so I can only tell you what I did and by no means advise you on what to do but you can certainly use my efforts as a rough guide….perhaps of what not to do, lol. I guess at the end of the day the method isn’t so important, as long as the finished dish is scrumdiddlyumptious, and this certainly was. The kids loved it so much they wished they could eat like this every day! I told them to feel free…when they are old enough and rich enough to do it for themselves or to pay for someone else to do it all for them. But it was nice to know how much they appreciated my efforts (and gagging) in cleaning the crabs myself.

So here’s what I did with the crabs……I placed the wriggly, jiggly crustaceans into the freezer for a couple of hours. Brought a large pot of salty water to the boil and then plunged the crabs in, 2 at a time. Once the water returned to the boil, I removed the crabs and placed them in a sink full of cold water. Little did I know that the crabs weren’t actually cooked fully, but at least they were dead. Then, I cracked their shells with the back of a large chef’s knife and ripped them apart. What a mess!!!! I had crab juices and water everywhere! Not to mention little bits of shell! Pressing on, I yanked their shells off and their guts out, gagged a little, then dumped all the icky stuff into a bag, gagged a little more, and cut each crab (well what was left of each crab) into quarters….after tearing their claws off. Ok, the revolting part was done and next time I’ll be making “not-hubby” do it!

I chopped up half a bunch of the garlic shoots I had (but you could use regular garlic cloves), heated some oil in my wok, then tossed in a few crab pieces and garlic shoots and stir fried them until cooked through. I did this in about 3 batches.

Onto my stir fried veggies…

Now I should mention that I don’t know what the chemical levels of the celery I found is. I assume it is low in salicylates but who really knows…same goes for the snake beans and garlic shoots. If highly sensitive to salicylates, it’s probably best to avoid them and stick with what you know, regular celery including the leaves, green beans and garlic cloves. The taste will be pretty much the same I would imagine.

1 choko peeled and cut into straws

1/4 of a wombok (Chinese cabbage), shredded

1/2 bunch of garlic shoots cut into inch long pieces

1 bunch of spring onions cut into inch long pieces (greens as well but set aside)

1 bunch of snake beans cut into 2 inch long pieces

1/2 a bunch of Chinese celery

1/2 a bunch of Vietnamese celery

4 tbsp of chives (I used 2 varieties)

1/2 cup of fauxbecue sauce

About 2 tbsp of oil

Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add the beans, choko, whites of the spring onions and garlic shoots and toss for a couple of minutes. Add the celery and wombok and cook a further couple of minutes before adding the fauxbecue sauce. Finally, toss in the remaining ingredients, including the green parts of the spring onions and serve.

The crabs just waiting to be devoured

The veggies looking just…well almost…as tempting

The carnage! We had to force ourselves to stop eating and leave some for “not-hubby”

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