Spicy Lemongrass Crab

Spicy Lemongrass Crab

Although I’ve lived in Manhattan for over 3 years now, I haven’t actually been to many of the hallmark sites that are synonymous with “New York”. I’ve never been to the top of the Empire State building, and the Statue of Liberty was only a spot on the horizon I’d admired from a distance until recently. I actually try to make it a point to avoid places like Times Square and Canal Street when I can, because it’s always such a huge mess of tourists.

I’m not sure if it was the back-at-home-blues or the nice weather, but I decided to be a tourist in my own town weekend. Still, the New Yorker in me guffawed at the thought of boarding one of those tacky blue double deck buses, so strapped the camera around my neck and put my walking shoes on. I started out walking north from my downtown condo up to City Hall, then over the Brooklyn bridge to DUMBO (Down Under The Manhattan Bridge Overpass) where I checked out the flea market (and winter home of the Redhook Ball Field vendors). To get back to civilization the city, I headed back over the Manhattan Bridge to the “real” Chinatown.

Brooklyn Bridge PanoramaPanorama of Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan Bridge (click for larger version)

The “real” Chinatown, you ask? Chinatown is actually a huge part of Manhattan, extending far beyond the stalls of faux Rolex watches along Canal street. During the 1980’s it went through a huge expansion, absorbing most of Little Italy, as well as swaths to the east and south, making it the largest Chinatown in the western hemisphere. While cheaper than shopping at Wholefoods, I’ve always thought that the areas around Mott and Bayard were more expensive than ethnic enclaves in other cities.

Like a culinary Shangri-La, I’d heard rumors of a “hidden” Chinatown under the Manhattan Bridge where prices were supposedly far cheaper, but I’d never ventured that far east to find out. Since I was on foot, and hadn’t planned dinner yet, I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to vet these rumors. As I got off the bridge and doubled back along its northern perimeter, I came across a dozen makeshift stalls selling produce at wholesale prices. A box of honey mangoes was going for $5, and other produce like green beans and bok choy were going in 5 and 10 pound increments. None of it looked stellar, but at the prices they were going for, I’d consider going back if I were cooking for a large group of people.

View from the Bridge

Continuing east, I came to an underpass and noticed an entrance on the east side of the street to a “mall” under the bridge. The mall consisted of a bunch of prepaid phone card vendors, but as I emerged from the other side, it was like I’d come through a portal to some dimly lit alternate reality. There were crates of produce at obscenely low prices, leading to a vinyl strap doorway which housed a large grocery store.

It was there I found these live Jonah crabs along with a bunch of lemongrass, garlic chives, fresh ginger, cilantro, bulk pack of garlic, and box of Ziploc freezer bags. On check out I thought I heard wrong so I double checked the green LCD readout that confirmed my total came to $6.34. If you remove the $3 box of ziploc bags, and all the extra ingredients I’ll be using for other things, this tasty crab dinner came out to about $1.00 per person! Who else would pay a dollar to have a meal like this?

I’m not going to make any authenticity claims here, but it’s Asian and it’s delicious! The sauce is sweet and spicy with a terrific zing coming from the grated lemongrass and ginger. The crab, while a bit harder to eat than Dungeness, was supple, moist and very flavourful. The best part was the garlic chives, which soaked up the flavor of the crab and the spicy sauce. Since I only used the white part of the lemongrass in the sauce, I cut up the top part of the stalk and added it to the rice before I cooked it, making for the perfect accompaniment to this dish.

2 small live crabs or 1 dungeness crab
2″ bunch of garlic chives
3 scallions trimmed

for sauce
white part of 1 stalk lemon grass grated
1″ knob ginger grated
2 cloves garlic grated
2 Tbs gochujang (Korean chili sauce)
1 tbs shao xing
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp sugar

Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl. Trim the tough stems off the garlic chives and cut into 2″ lengths. Cut the scallions into 2″ long pieces.

Clean the crab by scrubbing it under cold water then cut it up by first pulling the legs and claws off, then separating the body from the top shell by pulling apart the back of the crab. Remove the feathery gills from the body and cut it into a few pieces with a cleaver. Crack the claw segments with large pliers or a nut cracker.

Heat a wok or large stock pot on high heat until hot. Add 2 tablespoons of oil then add the crab, tossing to coat the crab with oil. Add the sauce then toss to coat evenly. Add the scallions and garlic chives then cover and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the crab is red and cooked through.

This is great served with rice that’s been cooked with the green parts of the lemon grass stalk.

  • http://chefholly.typepad.com/holly_hadsell_el_hajji/2009/03/tapas-and-a-sunset.html Holly

    That looks so good. My husband who has lived in Hawaii for almost 20 years still has not been to any of the major tourist spots.

  • http://chefholly.typepad.com/holly_hadsell_el_hajji/2009/03/tapas-and-a-sunset.html Holly

    That looks so good. My husband who has lived in Hawaii for almost 20 years still has not been to any of the major tourist spots.

  • http://www.lab247.net/ Jonathan

    great story marc. it’s amazing how one little grocery store, through an alley, can make a whole day of wandering worthwhile.

  • http://www.lab247.net Jonathan

    great story marc. it’s amazing how one little grocery store, through an alley, can make a whole day of wandering worthwhile.

  • http://simplyscrumptiousfoodie.com/ Jessie

    wow great story! I’ve been to chinatown myself (I am a new yorker as well) and I find a lot of fresh produce and meats tend to be cheaper there.

  • http://simplyscrumptiousfoodie.com Jessie

    wow great story! I’ve been to chinatown myself (I am a new yorker as well) and I find a lot of fresh produce and meats tend to be cheaper there.

  • http://duodishes.wordpress.com/ The Duo Dishes

    Oooh we love our crab, yes we do.

  • http://duodishes.wordpress.com The Duo Dishes

    Oooh we love our crab, yes we do.

  • http://www.kalofagas.ca/ Peter

    Marc, I love being a tourist in my own town but not the touristy areas…the neighborhoods and the food.

    Crab is creeping up in price but still “attainable”. You have all the flavours except smoke here…a wonderful Asian offering.

  • http://www.kalofagas.ca Peter

    Marc, I love being a tourist in my own town but not the touristy areas…the neighborhoods and the food.

    Crab is creeping up in price but still “attainable”. You have all the flavours except smoke here…a wonderful Asian offering.

  • http://goldilocksfindsmanhattan.blogspot.com/ ulla

    That looks so inspired and amazing!

  • http://goldilocksfindsmanhattan.blogspot.com/ ulla

    That looks so inspired and amazing!

  • http://foragingotaku.blogspot.com/ Forager

    That’s amazing value! I want!

  • http://foragingotaku.blogspot.com/ Forager

    That’s amazing value! I want!

  • http://elrasbaking.blogspot.com/ elra

    Wow Marc, I thought Ranch 99 was the cheapest place to get crabs.
    Love crabs, and the funny thing is I can only eat it if its spicy like this. So, Asian style is my favorite.

    Thanks for the nice tour too, love the photographs!
    Cheers,
    elra

  • http://elrasbaking.blogspot.com elra

    Wow Marc, I thought Ranch 99 was the cheapest place to get crabs.
    Love crabs, and the funny thing is I can only eat it if its spicy like this. So, Asian style is my favorite.

    Thanks for the nice tour too, love the photographs!
    Cheers,
    elra

  • http://www.brooklynfarmhouse.com/ megan (brooklyn farmhouse)

    I like it that Brooklyn is outside of “civilization”! :) Great photo.

  • http://www.brooklynfarmhouse.com megan (brooklyn farmhouse)

    I like it that Brooklyn is outside of “civilization”! :) Great photo.

  • http://kitchensidecar.blogspot.com/ katiek

    I love Asian Markets. I think they have so much to offer that others don’t. There are so man points of inspiration and discovery… like the balut that I discovered the other day. I really wanted to buy it, but I was on my bike and off to a dinner party. I was afraid it would splat in my pocket.

    I also bought 6 chicken carcasses for 2 dollars the other day. I was making stock for my mole negro.

    But in terms of this tantalizing crab. It looks phenomenal. My ears/eyes perked when I read garlic chives. Congrats for finding them at the price you did. Sometimes they are expensive.

    For some reason searching for good deals in chinatown is so much more rewarding than searching for deals at the local grocery store. Why is it that I feel less depressed? When I see deep discounts at the grocery store, I only see the recession. When I am in chinatown, I see inspiration.

    Food for thought.

  • http://kitchensidecar.blogspot.com katiek

    I love Asian Markets. I think they have so much to offer that others don’t. There are so man points of inspiration and discovery… like the balut that I discovered the other day. I really wanted to buy it, but I was on my bike and off to a dinner party. I was afraid it would splat in my pocket.

    I also bought 6 chicken carcasses for 2 dollars the other day. I was making stock for my mole negro.

    But in terms of this tantalizing crab. It looks phenomenal. My ears/eyes perked when I read garlic chives. Congrats for finding them at the price you did. Sometimes they are expensive.

    For some reason searching for good deals in chinatown is so much more rewarding than searching for deals at the local grocery store. Why is it that I feel less depressed? When I see deep discounts at the grocery store, I only see the recession. When I am in chinatown, I see inspiration.

    Food for thought.

  • http://thehungrymouse.com/ The Hungry Mouse

    Love, love, love being a tourist in my city. :D Anything that gets me to look at the things around me in a different way.

    Looks fabulous!

    +Jessie

  • http://thehungrymouse.com The Hungry Mouse

    Love, love, love being a tourist in my city. :D Anything that gets me to look at the things around me in a different way.

    Looks fabulous!

    +Jessie

  • http://souvlakiforthesoul.com/ Peter G

    Talk about discovering “cheap eats” in your own city! I’d love to hear more about NY’s hidden gems!

  • http://souvlakiforthesoul.com Peter G

    Talk about discovering “cheap eats” in your own city! I’d love to hear more about NY’s hidden gems!

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com/ we are never full

    ok, $1 a person? this look amazing. i am so visiting this “underground world”. thanks for the tip. i’ve lived in nyc for 10 years now and still learn new things all the time about this awesome city. it is fun to just poke around and see what you find. that’s how we spend some of our favorite weekend days.

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com we are never full

    ok, $1 a person? this look amazing. i am so visiting this “underground world”. thanks for the tip. i’ve lived in nyc for 10 years now and still learn new things all the time about this awesome city. it is fun to just poke around and see what you find. that’s how we spend some of our favorite weekend days.

  • http://www.sophiesfoodiefiles.blogspot.com/ Sophie

    Wow! Your dish looks so yummie !! It looks superb!!! Thanks for the good info!!

  • http://www.sophiesfoodiefiles.blogspot.com Sophie

    Wow! Your dish looks so yummie !! It looks superb!!! Thanks for the good info!!

  • http://janetching.wordpress.com/ Janet

    Oooh! I love chili crab! Your looks so inviting!

  • http://janetching.wordpress.com Janet

    Oooh! I love chili crab! Your looks so inviting!

  • http://www.saltnturmeric.com/ Farina

    Droolicious!

  • http://www.saltnturmeric.com Farina

    Droolicious!

  • http://cookappeal.blogspot.com/ chef E

    Yeah how funny that I live only 45 minutes away, and the first two years was so enamored at going into ‘The City’ and now the thought of the overcrowded train and streets has not interested me, and so many good restaurants! Hubby had a whole crab like this in China town once…the lemon grass sounds like a livelier flavor than I remembered his dish…

  • http://cookappeal.blogspot.com chef E

    Yeah how funny that I live only 45 minutes away, and the first two years was so enamored at going into ‘The City’ and now the thought of the overcrowded train and streets has not interested me, and so many good restaurants! Hubby had a whole crab like this in China town once…the lemon grass sounds like a livelier flavor than I remembered his dish…

  • http://www.thedailyspud.com/ Daily Spud

    I’d pay way more than $1 for that :) Also, love the idea of cooking the rice with the green parts of the lemongrass, will definitely have to try that.

  • http://www.thedailyspud.com Daily Spud

    I’d pay way more than $1 for that :) Also, love the idea of cooking the rice with the green parts of the lemongrass, will definitely have to try that.

  • http://www.foodgal.com/ Carolyn Jung

    How funny! My husband and I just played “tourist” in our own area, too. For us, it meant going to the revamped De Young Museum and Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. We even ran into one of my husband’s co-workers in line to get into the rainforest exhibit. I guess we’re all playing tourists close to home these days.

  • http://www.foodgal.com Carolyn Jung

    How funny! My husband and I just played “tourist” in our own area, too. For us, it meant going to the revamped De Young Museum and Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. We even ran into one of my husband’s co-workers in line to get into the rainforest exhibit. I guess we’re all playing tourists close to home these days.

  • http://manggy.blogspot.com/ Manggy

    Oh, you are KIDDING. Really??!? That would’ve been something to look forward to had I stayed in New York! Darn! It’ll be a while before I get a taste of those lovely crustaceans you prepare!

  • http://manggy.blogspot.com Manggy

    Oh, you are KIDDING. Really??!? That would’ve been something to look forward to had I stayed in New York! Darn! It’ll be a while before I get a taste of those lovely crustaceans you prepare!

  • http://pithyandcleaver.com/ maggie (p&c)

    Yum! What an awesome, delicious deal. Any memories of signage/names that we could use to follow in your footsteps?

    • marc

      Sorry I can’t remember what the place is called, but if you go down E Broadway until it crosses under the manhattan bridge, you’ll see an entrance to a mall under the bridge on the east side (side towards Brooklyn). Go right through the mall and come out the other side and you should see the market in front of you.

  • http://pithyandcleaver.com maggie (p&c)

    Yum! What an awesome, delicious deal. Any memories of signage/names that we could use to follow in your footsteps?

    • marc

      Sorry I can’t remember what the place is called, but if you go down E Broadway until it crosses under the manhattan bridge, you’ll see an entrance to a mall under the bridge on the east side (side towards Brooklyn). Go right through the mall and come out the other side and you should see the market in front of you.

  • http://allthingsnice.typepad.com/ syrie

    Amazing Marc. I want to go back to NY now. It’s such a fabulous city. On our last day we had an early dinner at Marlow & Sons and then walked backed through the Jewish quarter in Williamsburg. It was absolutely facsinating.

  • http://allthingsnice.typepad.com syrie

    Amazing Marc. I want to go back to NY now. It’s such a fabulous city. On our last day we had an early dinner at Marlow & Sons and then walked backed through the Jewish quarter in Williamsburg. It was absolutely facsinating.

  • http://immaeatchu.wordpress.com/ susan

    hi marc,
    your spicy crab dish sounds so delicious! love that you used gochujang. it’s such a savory flavor. i’ve introduced it to my non-korean friends and they love it.

  • http://immaeatchu.wordpress.com susan

    hi marc,
    your spicy crab dish sounds so delicious! love that you used gochujang. it’s such a savory flavor. i’ve introduced it to my non-korean friends and they love it.

  • http://www.standingstraight.blogspot.com/ Claudia

    I made this a few nights ago, and it was SO good. A keeper for sure. I like the way you blend story with the food. We would rarely (meaning me as the main shopper) buy crab, but have noticed it’s not so bad when compared to other main dish items. The same day I bought 1/2 lb. crab for this, I got 2 lamb shanks, which came to $8 something and the crab was only $7 and change. Maybe Hawaii is different in that. The only changes I made in the recipe was to leave out the shao xing, which I have no idea what it is, and substituted? lemon juice.

  • http://www.standingstraight.blogspot.com Claudia

    I made this a few nights ago, and it was SO good. A keeper for sure. I like the way you blend story with the food. We would rarely (meaning me as the main shopper) buy crab, but have noticed it’s not so bad when compared to other main dish items. The same day I bought 1/2 lb. crab for this, I got 2 lamb shanks, which came to $8 something and the crab was only $7 and change. Maybe Hawaii is different in that. The only changes I made in the recipe was to leave out the shao xing, which I have no idea what it is, and substituted? lemon juice.

  • http://savorysweetlife.com/ alice

    This looks awesome. Just curious.. how did you grate the lemongrass? I find just cutting it difficult. I also bought a tube of lemongrass.. maybe I’ll use it for this.

    • marc

      Thanks Alice, I use a Microplane zester for the lemongrass. It gets it nice and fine.

  • http://savorysweetlife.com alice

    This looks awesome. Just curious.. how did you grate the lemongrass? I find just cutting it difficult. I also bought a tube of lemongrass.. maybe I’ll use it for this.

    • marc

      Thanks Alice, I use a Microplane zester for the lemongrass. It gets it nice and fine.

  • http://www.miniclip.fm Miniclip

    hi marc,

    your spicy crab dish sounds so delicious! love that you used
    gochujang. it’s such a savory flavor. i’ve introduced it to my
    non-korean friends and they love it.

  • http://www.pogo.gs Pogo

    Amazing Marc. I want to go back to NY now. It’s such a fabulous city. On
    our last day we had an early dinner at Marlow & Sons and then
    walked backed through the Jewish quarter in Williamsburg. It was
    absolutely facsinating

  • http://www.y8.fm Y8

    hi marc,

    your spicy crab dish sounds so delicious! love that you used
    gochujang. it’s such a savory flavor. i’ve introduced it to my
    non-korean friends and they love it.

    • jogos

       This is interesting! I enjoyed reading your great post.Thanks for the valuable information and insights you have shared here.

  • http://twitter.com/nrmaza FancyNancy

    Live crab is so good…but I hate dealing with live crabs- they make me so sad >.<

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t understand how someone can eat fish or meat and not be comfortable taking its life. Whether it died at your hands or a fish/meat plant, it was killed for your enjoyment. I think people have lost appreciation for this fact these days, which makes me sad.

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I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!

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