Crabs: From Stir-Frying to Steaming Asian Crabs Like a Pro

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Crabs are delicious, but hard to get to the meat. There are many ways to prepare them in Asian cooking, and I’ll share some of my favorites.

Crabs are decapod crustaceans of the infraorder Brachyura, which typically have a very short projecting “tail” (abdomen) ( = short, = tail), usually entirely hidden under the thorax. They live in all the world’s oceans, in fresh water, and on land, are generally covered with a thick exoskeleton and have a single pair of claws. Many other animals with similar names – such as hermit crabs, king crabs, porcelain crabs, horseshoe crabs and crab lice – are not true crabs.

In this article, I’ll talk about some of the most popular ways to cook them and share some tips and tricks.

Asian crabs

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Crab Varieties in Asian Cooking

1. Blue Crab

Blue crabs are a popular type of seafood in Chinese cuisine. They are known for their sweet and succulent meat, which is perfect for stir-frying and steaming. Here are some tips for preparing and cooking blue crabs:

  • Prep: Clean the crab by removing the lungs, gills, and other inedible parts.
  • Cook: Steam the crab for 10-12 minutes or stir-fry it with scallions and ginger for a flavorful dish.
  • Total: 20-25 minutes

2. Dungeness Crab

Dungeness crabs are another popular type of crab in Chinese cuisine. They have a slightly sweeter flavor than blue crabs and are often used in soups and stews. Here are some tips for preparing and cooking Dungeness crabs:

  • Prep: Clean the crab by removing the lungs, gills, and other inedible parts.
  • Cook: Steam the crab for 15-20 minutes or add it to a soup or stew for added flavor.
  • Total: 25-30 minutes

3. Snow Crab

Snow crabs are a type of crab that is often used in sushi and sashimi dishes. They have a delicate flavor and are perfect for raw preparations. Here are some tips for preparing and cooking snow crabs:

  • Prep: Clean the crab by removing the lungs, gills, and other inedible parts.
  • Cook: Snow crabs are often served raw in sushi and sashimi dishes.
  • Total: No cooking time needed

4. King Crab

King crabs are a type of crab that is often used in Chinese cuisine. They have a sweet and succulent flavor and are perfect for stir-frying and steaming. Here are some tips for preparing and cooking king crabs:

  • Prep: Clean the crab by removing the lungs, gills, and other inedible parts.
  • Cook: Steam the crab for 15-20 minutes or stir-fry it with scallions and ginger for a flavorful dish.
  • Total: 25-30 minutes

What’s the Taste Profile of Crab Meat?

Crab meat is a highly sought-after seafood ingredient that is widely available in the market. It comes in different sizes, shapes, and types, with the most commonly found being blue and stone crabs. The taste of crab meat varies depending on the type, size, and preparation techniques used. However, there are some typical characteristics that people often describe when talking about the taste of crab meat.

Preparing Crab Meat

When preparing crab meat, it’s important to keep in mind that it needs to maintain its natural taste and texture. Here are some points to consider when preparing crab meat:

  • Wash and freeze the crab before cooking to make it easier to handle.
  • Cut the crab into pieces or chunks, depending on the recipe or dish you’re making.
  • Coat the crab with a mixture of aromatics and spices to add extra flavor.
  • Choose the right cooking technique, whether it’s steaming, stir-frying, or adding it directly to a sauce.
  • Finish the dish with a touch of extra ingredients like sugar, water, or heavy cream to enhance the taste.

The Best Ways to Enjoy Crab Meat

Crab meat is a popular ingredient in many Asian and Western dishes, and it offers a wide range of culinary possibilities. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy crab meat:

  • Steamed crab meat is perfect for maintaining its delicate taste and texture.
  • Stir-fried crab meat offers a rich and slightly sweet taste that pairs well with vegetables and rice.
  • Adding crab meat directly to a sauce or soup can offer a smooth and creamy texture that is perfect for pasta dishes.
  • Mixing crab meat with other seafood ingredients like shrimp or scallops can create a mouth-watering seafood mix that is perfect for dinner.

The Iodine Factor

One important thing to keep in mind when eating crab meat is its iodine content. Crab meat is a partial source of iodine, which is a mineral that our body needs to function correctly. However, eating too much crab meat can force the body to absorb too much iodine, which can lead to health problems. It’s essential to choose the right type and amount of crab meat to eat, depending on your dietary needs.

Clean and Freeze Your Crab for the Best Flavor

Before you start cooking your crab, make sure to wash it thoroughly. Rinse it under cold running water to remove any dirt or debris. Scrub the shell gently with a brush to remove any stubborn bits. This will ensure that your crab is clean and ready to cook.

Freeze Your Crab for Easy Cooking

Freezing your crab before cooking it can make the process much easier. Here’s how to do it:

  • Buy fresh, quality crab from a reputable seafood market.
  • Rinse the crab thoroughly under cold running water.
  • Place the crab in a plastic bag and seal it tightly.
  • Place the bag in the freezer for at least 2 hours.

When you’re ready to cook your crab, remove it from the freezer and let it thaw for a few minutes. This will make it easier to handle and prepare.

Add Soy Sauce to Enhance the Flavor of Your Crab Meat

Once your crab is cooked, you can add soy sauce to enhance the flavor of the meat. Here’s how to do it:

  • In a small bowl, mix together soy sauce, sugar, and water.
  • Heat the mixture in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Drizzle the sauce over the cooked crab meat.

Serve Your Crab with Delicious Sides

Crab is a versatile seafood that can be served with a variety of sides. Here are some ideas:

  • Steamed rice
  • Stir-fried vegetables
  • Garlic noodles
  • Grilled corn on the cob
  • Roasted potatoes

With these sides, your crab dish will be a complete meal that your family and friends will love.

Infuse Flavor with Aromatics

To prepare the aromatics, start by peeling and slicing a thumb-sized piece of ginger into thin matchsticks. Smash them with the flat side of your knife to release the flavor. Next, chop half a cup of onions into symmetrical pieces. For an initial burst of flavor, add the ginger and onions to the wok or pan before the crab.

Coat Crab with Cornstarch

Before cooking the crab, coat it with a mixture of cornstarch and soy sauce. This will help the crab to fry up crispy and golden brown. Sprinkle a tablespoon of cornstarch over the crab and mix it with your hands to coat it evenly.

Heat Oil and Add Aromatics

Heat up some oil in the wok or pan until it’s hot but not smoking. Add the smashed ginger and onions to the oil and swirl it around to infuse the oil with flavor. Once the aromatics are fragrant, add the crab to the wok or pan.

Stir-Fry Crab and Aromatics

Stir-fry the crab and aromatics for a few minutes until the crab shell turns bright red. Use a pair of tongs to pull the legs and claws away from the body to ensure even cooking. Add a tablespoon of dark soy sauce, a teaspoon of sugar, and a splash of water to the wok or pan. Mix everything together and let it cook for another minute or two until the crab is fully cooked.

Plate and Serve

Transfer the crab and aromatics to a serving platter. Garnish with chopped green onions and a sprinkle of sesame seeds for added flavor and texture. Serve hot with a side of steamed rice or noodles. Don’t forget to pull the meat out of the legs and claws to eat!

Step Up Your Crab Game: Cut and Coat Like a Pro

When it comes to cutting the crab, you want to make sure you do it right to get the most out of your seafood. Here’s how to do it:

  • Place the crab on a cutting board and pull off the legs and claws.
  • Peel off the shell and discard it.
  • Use a sharp knife to slice the crab in half, right down the center.
  • Remove the gills and the stomach sac.
  • Chop the crab into smaller, symmetrical pieces.

Stir-Frying Crab: A Fundamental Technique for Delicious Asian Cuisine

Stir-frying is a cooking technique that employs high heat and quick cooking to create delectable dishes. It involves cooking ingredients in a wok or pan with a small amount of oil, constantly stirring and tossing them to ensure even cooking. Stir-frying is a staple in Asian cuisine and is a great way to cook crab.

Preparing Crab for Stir-Frying

Before stir-frying crab, you need to prepare it properly. Here’s how:

  • Clean the crab by removing the innards, gills, and shell. Cut the crab into pieces, separating the legs and claws.
  • Mix the crab with cornstarch and a little water to create a coating that will help the crab absorb the sauce.
  • Prepare your aromatics, such as ginger, onions, and green onions, and mix them with a sauce made of soy sauce, rice wine, and cornstarch slurry.
  • Heat your wok or pan on high heat and add oil. Once the oil is hot, add the crab and stir-fry for a few minutes until it turns shiny and pink.

Stir-Frying Crab

Here’s how to stir-fry crab:

  • Add your aromatics to the wok and stir-fry for a few seconds until fragrant.
  • Add the mixed sauce and stir-fry for a few seconds until it thickens and coats the crab.
  • Drizzle some water around the edges of the wok and quickly cover it with a lid. Let it steam for a few minutes until the crab is cooked through and juicy.
  • Uncover the wok and stir-fry for a few more seconds until the sauce builds up and turns shiny.
  • Serve the stir-fried crab with steamed rice or noodles.

Steaming: A Delicious Chinese Crab Dish

To make the sauce, mix together small diced onions, chillies, and fermented beancurd. Add a bottle of Shaoxing wine and a small amount of water. Season with salt and high-quality soy sauce. Dip the crabs in the sauce before eating.

Serving the Dish

Once the crabs are steamed, remove them from the steamer and arrange them on a platter. Serve the dipping sauce alongside the crabs. Traditionally, this dish is enjoyed warmed and is a staple at many Chinese festivals and feasts.

Photos and Adventure

For an added adventure, try using blue crabs from the Atlantic Bay. Take photos of the preparation process and index this dish in your recipe collection. Steamed crab with dipping sauce is a delicious and healthy dish that is sure to impress any host.

Crab Buying 101: Tips and Tricks for Getting the Best Crabs for Your Asian Cooking

When it comes to buying crabs for your Asian cooking, you have a couple of options. You can either go to your local seafood market or grocery store, or you can order them online. If you’re looking for convenience, ordering online is probably your best bet. But if you want to be able to inspect the crabs before buying them, going to a local store is a great idea.

What to Look for When Buying Crabs

When buying crabs for your Asian dish, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • Size: The size of the crab you choose will depend on the recipe you’re making. If you’re making a dish that requires a lot of meat, a larger crab is probably your best bet. But if you’re making a simple stir-fry, a smaller crab will do just fine.
  • Color: Blue crabs are a popular choice for Asian cooking, but you can also use red or bay crabs. When choosing crabs, look for ones that are a bright, vibrant color. Avoid crabs that are dull or discolored.
  • Weight: A heavy crab is a good sign that it’s full of meat. But be careful not to choose a crab that’s too heavy, as this could indicate that it’s fatty.
  • Smell: A fresh crab should smell like the ocean. If it smells fishy or sour, it’s probably not fresh.
  • Movement: If the crabs are still alive, they should be moving slightly. This is a good sign that they’re healthy.

How to Store Crabs

Once you’ve bought your crabs, it’s important to store them properly to keep them fresh. Here are some tips:

  • Keep them wet: Crabs need to be kept moist to stay alive. If you’re not going to cook them right away, store them in a cool, wet place like a cooler or refrigerator.
  • Don’t store them in water: While crabs need to be kept wet, they shouldn’t be stored in water. This can drown them and make them less fresh.
  • Keep them cold: Crabs should be stored at a temperature between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Don’t stack them: Crabs should be stored in a single layer to prevent them from crushing each other.

Crab Cooking: Your Ultimate Guide to Asian Crab Recipes

Here are some frequently asked questions about cooking with crab in Asian cuisine:

What are some common ingredients used in Asian crab recipes?

Asian crab recipes often call for the following ingredients:

  • Soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Rice wine
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Scallions
  • Sesame oil
  • Chili peppers

What are some techniques for cooking crab?

There are several techniques for cooking crab, including:

  • Stir-frying: This involves quickly cooking the crab in a wok or frying pan over high heat with oil and aromatics.
  • Steaming: This involves cooking the crab over boiling water in a steamer basket.
  • Boiling: This involves boiling the crab in a pot of water with aromatics.
  • Grilling: This involves cooking the crab over an open flame or on a grill.

How can I find high-quality crab?

Here are some tips for finding high-quality crab:

  • Look for live crabs at your local seafood market.
  • Choose crabs that are heavy for their size and have all their legs intact.
  • Check the crab’s shell for any cracks or damage.
  • Smell the crab to make sure it doesn’t have a strong odor.

What type of oil should I use for cooking crab?

When cooking crab, it’s best to use an oil with a high smoke point, such as:

  • Peanut oil
  • Canola oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Grapeseed oil

Are there any ground rules I should follow when cooking with crab?

Here are some ground rules to keep in mind when cooking with crab:

  • Always wash and freeze the crab before cooking to kill any bacteria.
  • Prepare your aromatics and sauce before cooking the crab.
  • Cut the crab into pieces to help it cook evenly.
  • Coat the crab in cornstarch or flour before cooking to help it crisp up.
  • Don’t overcook the crab, as it can become tough and rubbery.


So there you have it- a brief guide to the many varieties of crab used in Asian cooking, and some useful tips on how to prepare and cook them. 

As with any seafood, freshness is key, so make sure you buy from a reputable market.

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.