HOW TO CLEAN HAIRY CRABS
- Clean the crabs one at a time in a basin of water with ice cubes added. The cold water helps keep the crustaceans alive.
- Do not remove the straw or string ties. Scrub the crabs gently using a stiff brush and rinse in the cold water.
HOW TO STEAM HAIRY CRABS
- Flip the crabs over so the belly side is up. Arrange them on a metal or ceramic plate. Place a dried perilla leaf (available at Chinese medical halls which sell herbs) that has been rehydrated over each crab. The perilla leaves remove strong smells from the crabs and mitigate their cooling effect.
- Steam at high heat for 15 to 20 minutes for crabs up to 250g. For heavier crabs, steam 300g ones for 25 minutes, and add 5 minutes of steaming time for every additional 50g.
- Cut the strings that bind the crab.
- Remove the carapace and set aside.
- Remove the crab gills, which are grey, spongy strips, and discard.
- Remove the apron of the crab and discard.
- Break the body in two.
- Cut off the legs and pincers.
- Using a sharp pair of crab or kitchen shears, cut down each side of the pincers. Snap the two sides apart and set aside.
- The legs are divided into three sections. Cut off the sections closest to the crab’s body just before the joint. Cut off and discard the middle sections. Save the last sections.
- Insert the last joint, pointed end down, into the first section to push the leg meat out.
- Arrange the prepared crab on a plate, serve with vinegar dipping sauce and ginger tea.
HOW TO MAKE THE ACCOMPANYING VINEGAR DIP AND GINGER TEA
- To make ginger tea: Bring 1 litre of water to boil, add 5g pu-erh tea leaves, 20g brown sugar that comes in block form, 50g ginger peeled and smashed. Turn heat down and simmer 5 minutes before serving. Serves four.
- To make vinegar dip: Bring Chinkiang black vinegar to a simmer, add brown sugar in block form to taste. Stir until sugar is dissolved, let cool before serving.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.