Thai-Style Curried Crab

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If you’ve been reading this blog for more than five minutes you probably know that I love Dungeness crab. Come November every year, I eagerly await reports that crabbing season has begun, so I can make oven-baked crab, steamed crab, deviled eggs with crab, crab curry, chili crab — you get the picture.

When I was in Chiang Mai a couple of years ago, I tasted a mild yellow crab curry that was out of this world. Soft and eggy, it was like a warm blanket of crab and spices (okay, that sounds kind of weird, but bear with me). I wanted to recreate that taste at home and I finally nailed it here. This is not just one of my new favorite crab recipes — it’s one of my favorite recipes, period.

Freshly shelled crab is essential here. Go for the good stuff.

Thai stir-fried yellow crab curry

Ingredients:

3 eggs
1/2 cup half and half
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Thai seasoning sauce
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 pound crabmeat
1 green onion, cut into 2-inch slices
Ground pepper
2 cups baby spinach

1. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, half and half, fish sauce, oyster sauce, Thai seasoning sauce, and 2 tablespoons of the curry powder.

2. Heat a wok over high heat and add the oil. Add the onion, sugar, and the remaining 1 teaspoon curry powder and stir-fry until the onion is soft and translucent. Reduce the heat, add the egg mixture, and stir until it resembles a soft custard, about 1 minute. Add the crabmeat and 1 cup of spinach and toss to coat the sauce. Remove from the heat, add the green onion and a pinch of pepper, then toss to combine.

3. Spread the remaining cup of spinach onto a serving platter and top with the curried crab and serve warm.

Deviled Eggs with Dungeness Crab

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Every year, denizens of the Bay Area eagerly await a very special season. The weather is getting chillier, the nights are getting longer, and a very special something is along the way: Dungeness crab.

Outsiders may ridicule our obsession, but they haven’t tasted the sweet, juicy, tender delicacy that is Dungeness. And no holiday season is complete without a few crabs at the table, right?

This appetizer brings together Dungeness crab, which everyone loves, and deviled eggs, which everyone also loves, unless you have no taste. (Or maybe you haven’t had a good deviled egg? I was once there, my friend. I understand the struggle.)

Creamy, salty-sweet, and easy to prepare ahead of time, these get eaten up in an instant. You might want to make extra.

Deviled Eggs with Dungenness Crab

Ingredients:

1 dozen eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 minced shallot
2 tablespoons snipped chives, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
Salt
1/4 pound Dungeness crab
Salmon roe, for garnish (optional)

1. Fill a large bowl with ice water. In a saucepan, cover the eggs with water by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Cover and remove the pan from the heat. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain the eggs and transfer to the ice water bath to cool completely.

2. Peel and halve the eggs lengthwise. Transfer the yolks to a medium bowl and mash with the back of a spoon. Arrange the egg whites on a platter. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, shallot, 2 tablespoons of chives, parsley, capers, thyme, vinegar and Tabasco to the bowl with the egg yolks and mix until smooth. Season with salt. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag and fill the egg whites. Top each deviled egg with some of the crab and garnish with roe and chives.

Green Curry with Rice Noodles and Mussels

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This coconut curry is the kind of dish that tastes too good to be healthy. Brimming with greens and herbs, this meal in a bowl comes together in about half an hour. I love everything about this dish: the vibrant green, the creamy coconut, the salty mussels. Oh, and rice noodles. Gimme all the noodles.

Green coconut curry with mussels

Ingredients:

1 serrano chile, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
2 lemongrass stalks, bottom third only, tough outer layers removed, sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 14-ounce can coconut milk
2 cups cilantro leaves with tender stems
3 cups basil leaves, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons coconut oil
4 pounds mussels, scrubbed
8 ounces rice stick noodles
1/2 lime
Salt

1. Puree chile, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, fish sauce, brown sugar, and 3 cups water in a blender until smooth. Transfer curry to a bowl. Reserve blender (no need to clean).

2. Puree coconut milk, cilantro, 3 cups basil, and 1/4 cup cold water in blender until smooth; set herb puree aside.

3. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Add mussels, cover, and cook until mussels open, about 7 minutes. Uncover and transfer opened mussels to a bowl, reserving cooking liquid in saucepan. If any mussels are still closed, cover and cook a few minutes longer, then add to bowl with others; discard any mussels that don’t open.

4. Add curry base to saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

5. In the meantime, cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water.

6. Pour any accumulated mussel-cooking liquid into curry mixture and stir in herb puree; bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and add reserved mussels and squeeze in juice from lime. Taste and season with salt if needed. Serve warm in bowls and garnish with reserved basil leaves.

Vietnamese-Style Braised and Caramelized Catfish

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This is the way so many great meals in my life have been enjoyed: sitting in the street, eating something out of a bowl that I’m not exactly sure what it is, scooters going by. – the late, great Anthony Bourdain

When I went to Vietnam in 2011 I was besieged in the best of ways by the colors, flavors, smells, and sounds that permeated every street and alleyway. To this day, my favorite memories from this trip are of me and my sister enjoying a casual street-side meal: a slow-slung stool, a pair of plastic chopsticks, and mouthwatering meal after meal in a bowl.

One of the best things I ate in Hanoi was the fish: always soaking up that Vietnamese balance of hot, sour, salty, and sweet. This recipe takes me back to those memories — at home, the scene is not quite the same, but the meal is still delicious.

Try to use a heavy cast-iron skillet for this dish, and source the freshest fish you can find. Serve with plenty of warm rice to soak up the juices.

Vietnamese Braised and Caramelized Catfish

Ingredients:

1 pound catfish fillets
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar
1/3 cup warm water
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced lemongrass
3 green onions, trimmed, smashed flat with the side of a cleaver, sliced lengthwise into 3 pieces
1 tablespoon fried garlic or fried shallots

1. Place the fish on a plate, sprinkle both sides with the pepper, and set aside. In a medium bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm water, then stir in the fish sauce, and set aside.

2. Place a heavy medium skillet over high heat. When it is hot, add the oil. Toss in the lemongrass, then place the fillets in the hot oil and sear for 1 minute, then turn over a repeat. Add the liquid ingredients. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and add the green onions. Cook for 10 minutes, uncovered, turning the fish over after 5 minutes. As the liquid cooks down, lower the heat little by little, enough to prevent the sauce from burning. It will reduce gradually to a texture similar to a heavy syrup.

3. Serve hot, topped with the fried garlic or fried shallots.

Sri Lankan Crab Curry

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Dungeness crab season in the Bay Area. And during the holidays, we eat Dungeness crab. Crab cakes. Crab with butter. Singaporean chili crab. Roasted crab. And now, Jaffna-style crab curry. This stuff is so good it’ll have you licking your fingers and crying tears of joy from the endorphin rush. It burns, my friend. It burns so good. There’s a reason why this is Anthony Bourdain’s favorite Sri Lankan dish.

In my version, I substituted spinach for murungu leaves. I know, I know. A poor substitute, but I couldn’t find a single South Asian grocery in the East Bay that carries murungu leaves. And I’ve of course used Dungeness crab instead of blue swimmer crabs which are native to Sri Lanka. It ain’t pretty and it’s messy, but who cares? This is what crustacean dreams are made of.

Happy holidays, y’all.

Sri Lankan crab curry

Ingredients:

2 large cooked Dungeness crabs, cleaned
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt to taste
1 tablespoon raw basmati rice
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 tablespoons shredded coconut
5 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, chopped
2 sprigs curry leaves
1 tomato, chopped
1 bunch spinach or murungu leaves
1 cup water
1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons tamarind paste, soaked in 1/3 cup warm water and pressed through a sieve, solids discarded

1. Split crabs down the middle and crack legs. Toss with turmeric powder, cayenne pepper, and salt. Set aside.

2. Toast rice, peppercorns, and cumin seeds in a small saucepan and set aside. Toast coconut in saucepan until slightly browned. Grind spices and coconut with garlic and set aside.

3. Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Saute onions, curry leaves, tomato, and spinach. Add crabs and 1/2 cup of the water. Cover and steam over high heat for 5 minutes.

4. Add the rice mixture, remaining water, and coconut milk to the saucepan. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes. Add strained tamarind liquid to pot and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve warm.