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Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘Dungeness crab

Ningbo Crab with Sticky Rice Cakes (Nian Gao)

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The most memorable dish Chen Leilei made for us, with fresh live crab and their roe.

My poor attempt to recreate the dish, with too-small, roeless Maryland blue crab.

For more Hangzhou recipes, check out my NPR Kitchen Window column.

Cleaning and cutting up live crab is not for the faint of heart.

I had no problem watching Hangzhou TV chef Chen Leilei do it when she gave me a cooking lesson back in China in August. But I had more trouble when I tried to recreate the recipe, using too-small Maryland Blue crabs, with my dad in Virginia.

Chen’s Ningbo Crab with Sticky Rice Cakes (nian gao) was about the best thing she prepared for us at her apartment in Hangzhou. We met her at a local, open-air wet market, where she picked out the still-swimming fresh crabs. At the market, she also bought those pillowy glutinous rice sticks (nian gao) so much fresher than the refrigerated or frozen “rice ovalettes” (known as dduk in Korean) you find at Asian markets here.

The finished recipe, from the seaport of Ningbo just east of Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province, had the perfect balance of salty, sweet and umami flavors smoothed out by the presence of the dry sherry-like Shaoxing wine. This ubiquitous cooking wine is central to Hangzhou dishes and shows up in much of Chinese cuisine. Pick some up at your local Asian market and use it to enhance any stir-fry or dipping sauce.

What follows is my attempt at translating Chen Leilei’s recipe. And if you’re squeamish about live crab, try boiling them in salted water for two minutes first before you dismantle them. Just stun them unconscious first (by hitting the head against the cutting board), so they aren’t boiled alive.

Ningbo Crab with Sticky Rice Cakes

Makes about 4 servings

2 live crabs, weighing about a pound total (mature females with roe if possible)

1/3 of a 2-pound package of sticky rice ovalettes, separated and softened in hot water

Small bowl of cornstarch for dipping crab

2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil

2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and cut into slivers

3 teaspoons sugar

1 cup water

1 bunch scallions, quartered lengthwise and sliced into 2- inch strips (or use a mix of scallions and garlic chives or Chinese leek flowers)

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

1/2 cup Shaoxing wine

1.Stun the crab, remove aprons and carapace (reserve whole back shells for stir-fry) and clean out guts and lungs. Quarter crab and bash the shell a bit with cleaver so flavor will seep out when it cooks. Dip exposed meat in cornstarch to keep it in the shell and add texture. Separate the rice cakes and soak them briefly in hot water to soften them. Drain them.

2. Heat canola oil in wok. Add slivered ginger and stir-fry a minute, until fragrant. Add crab pieces (including the whole carapaces) and stir-fry about 4 minutes, until the shells turn red.

3. Add the Shaoxing wine, half the scallions, soy sauces, sugar, rice cakes and water. Cover with lid and simmer about 2 minutes, until done.

4.Remove lid and stir in remaining scallions. Plate and serve, with crab crackers if necessary.

Chen Leilei picks out the crab.

Cleaning the live crab. That orange roe is crucial for flavor.

Cutting up the whole crab.

Dip the exposed meat in cornstarch before stir-frying.

Dip the exposed meat in cornstarch before stir-frying.

The much smaller live Blue crabs I used from the Asian market. Next time, I’ll try it with larger Dungeness or Red Rock out here in Oregon.

These immature crabs had no roe to flavor the dish. Crab roe is really big in Shanghai and Hangzhou cuisine.

Written by baltimoregon

September 20, 2010 at 10:15 am

Delicate Jersusalem Artichoke-Meyer Lemon-Dungeness Crab Soup

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The sunchoke soup, garnished with crab, sourdough breadcrumbs, roasted meyer lemons and chives.

Roasted Meyer Lemon: The Citrus I Still Don't Quite Love.

This sunny, citrusy soup caught my attention in the excellent newsletter (chock full of recipes) the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market organizers in San Fran put out. I had nutty knobs of local Jersusalem artichokes (or sunchokes) in the fridge, I wanted to sneak in some crab once more this season, and I’m always game to give Meyer lemons another chance.

The soup was subtle yet refreshing. The puree didn’t complete with the sweet, mellow crab meat. I still don’t love Meyer lemons (they have some faint mustiness, kind of like kumquats, that’s off-putting). But they caramelized upon roasting, giving the soup a welcome tang. I didn’t quite understand the recipe (was I supposed to strain the cooking water off…I didn’t) but it still came out well. I fitfully added some mustard, capers, tarragon vinegar, white wine, little dribs and drabs of things, to punch up the broth.

We got quite a deal on the one cooked crab Dan shelled for the meat. Gotta love Richey’s Market-we’ll be sad to see it go when/if Market of Choice comes in. $5 a pound seemed like a good deal. Fortunately, it only takes a few times for me to have my crab fill until next season.

Written by baltimoregon

March 2, 2010 at 2:02 am

Cioppino-Style Roasted Dungeness Crab

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I had been dying to eat fresh Dungeness crab ever since featuring the local delicacy (not to mention Oregon’s state crustacean) on our December KBOO Food Show. Sure, nothing beats cracking crab on the Newport waterfront. But we’re only an hour away and can get them almost as fresh at our neighborhood seafood market, Harry and Annette’s Fresh Fish. They even cook up fresh crab for customers everyday.

I probably still prefer the unadulterated sweet flesh, simply dipped in salted, drawn butter with a splash of lemon. But this Cioppino-Style Roasted Crab in the current issue of Bon Appetit looked delicious and easy enough. It helped that Harry also cleaned and quartered the crab for me. Oh, if only I still had the clam broth on hand from last May’s digging expedition. Cracking the crab (and trying not to make a mess) as we ate was the only trouble with this dish. We just dumped the leftover meat in the spicy tomato broth, rather than assemble the leftovers into crab cakes, as Bon Appetit suggested. The stew’s a gussied up take on ole’ Maryland Crab soup. In fact, I now prefer Dungeness to the Chesapeake’s Blue crab.

We served the cioppino with the recommended Lemon-Parsley Pasta, albeit a surprisingly edible gluten-free kind (more on that in another post!). We tried Bionaturae macaroni shells; Elaine, was that the kind you recommended?

The stew was great, but we’ve both now had our seafood, at least crab, fill for a while. Oysters, however, are still calling to me.

Written by baltimoregon

January 11, 2010 at 12:58 am

Those Poor Dungeness Crabs, and the People Who Risk Their Lives to Catch Them

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Christmas trip to the Oregon Coast.

Christmas trip to the Oregon Coast.

I’m feeling somewhat guilty about enjoying the dungeness crab we ate on the recent trip to Newport and Waldport. Looks like commercial fisherman in California, but also Washington and Oregon are struggling to stay afloat given “an unusually weak Dungeness crab harvest.” As if the collapse of their Pacific chinook salmon livelihood wasn’t enough.

But an Oregon Public Radio story suggests the situation may not be as bad in Oregon, which appears to have at least an average harvest. Seems too early to tell.

Wish I hadn’t fallen in love with with the sweet, succulent taste of fresh Dungeness crab. To make matters worse, apparently “harvesting Dungeness crabs in the Pacific Northwest is the most dangerous fishing job in the country” (scroll down in article).

Can we really ethically continue to eat these crustaceans if harvesting them puts crabbers life in jeopardy? And are they being overfished?

// )

Dungeness Crabs/Flickr Creative Commons/By bbum )

Written by baltimoregon

December 30, 2008 at 2:22 am

Dungeness: Better than Lobster, Better Than Blue Crabs

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We had sweet, delicate, freshly-caught Dungeness crab on the Newport coast tonight for my parents’ last dinner here in Oregon. I know I’ll take flack for this, but I think I like Oregon’s crab better than Maine lobster or Baltimore’s blue crabs. It’s less rich.

Our timing couldn’t have been better. Dungeness crab season commenced Dec. 1. The crabbing appears to be sustainable and well-regulated here.

I recommend the Local Ocean Seafood Restaurant and fish market, where we ate, right on the Newport harbor. Raw crabs retail at the market for $4.50/pound and the staff is quite friendly.

Before dinner, we sampled beers at Newport’s famed Rogue Brewery. It’s by no means our favorite micro-brew here. But I liked the Hazelnut Brown Nectar and the Honey Orange Wheat enough to bring 22-oz. bottles of those home.

Written by baltimoregon

December 3, 2008 at 12:50 am

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