Wok-fried mud crab with chilli-tamarind caramel


  • Serves 2 people

  • 1 live mud crab (about 900gm)
  • 300 ml fish stock
  • 1 bunch gai lan, coarsely chopped
  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 20 garlic chives (about ½ bunch)
  • Juice of 2 limes, or to taste
  • To taste: fish sauce
  • 25 gm (½ cup) fried shallots
  • 1 bunch sawtooth coriander, torn (see note)
  • To serve: coriander leaves and steamed jasmine rice
  • Chilli-tamarind caramel
  • 5 long red chillies, halved lengthways, seeds removed
  • 4 golden shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 4 coriander roots, scrubbed
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
  • 190 gm light palm sugar, crushed
  • To taste: fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp tamarind pulp, or to taste
01   Place crab in freezer for 1 hour to render insensible, then split crab down the centre to kill humanely. Remove top shell, remove gills and clean. Quarter crab and crack large claws, leaving attached. Refrigerate until required.
02   For chilli-tamarind caramel, pound chilli, shallot, coriander root and garlic in a mortar and pestle to a fine paste. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat until hot. Add paste, stir-fry until fragrant (3-5 minutes). Add palm sugar, cook until golden caramel (5-7 minutes). Add 50ml water, stir and cook until slightly thickened (2-3 minutes). Cool slightly, season to taste with fish sauce and tamarind and set aside. Chilli-tamarind caramel will keep refrigerated for one month.
03   Bring stock to the boil in a large wok over high heat, add crab, reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer until crab is just cooked (8-10 minutes). Add gai lan, spring onion, garlic chives, half the chilli-tamarind caramel and 50ml water, stir until vegetables soften (1-2 minutes). Add extra chilli-tamarind carmel to taste, if desired, and season to taste with lime juice and fish sauce. Scatter with fried shallots, sawtooth coriander and coriander and serve hot with jasmine rice.
Note Sawtooth coriander has a long serrated leaf and is available from Thai and Asian grocers. If unavailable, substitute regular coriander.

This recipe is from the September 2009 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.
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