In our village, there are many industrious folk who roam the streets selling a wide range of food and services. They are recognized by the distinct sounds they produce as they walk past your home. There's the unmistakable bell of my favorite 'dirty' ice cream man pushing his colorful cart through our streets whom I've been buying cones of ube and keso (cheese) ice cream from since I was five; the cring-cring of the bicycle bell by the man whose bicycle is fitted with a circular blade to sharpen your knives and scissors and booming voice coming from the man bearing rice cakes such as puto and cuchinta on either end of a pole he carries on his shoulder, to name a few.
Of all these street hawkers, my favorite was always the taho guy. For as long as I can remember, his call would propel me into a frenzy that involved the panicked search of coins and then a mad dash to the front door with an empty glass in my hand. His plastic cups were too small for me. From experience, he knew to linger slightly outside our home especially during the summer months when my siblings and I were home most days. He also knew to add more syrup and sago in mine. How I loved that warm afternoon treat!
Yesterday though, our taho guy came by with crabs. Yup, live fresh crabs struggling to crawl out of a pail right there on our doorstep. My mom couldn't resist and bought 2 kilos to try. She asked me this morning what I wanted to do with them. Normally we have our crabs one of three ways: steamed and served with lemon and/or vinegar, cooked in coconut milk or made into our favorite chili crabs. I wanted something different so I decided on black pepper crabs.
My mom steamed the crabs while I prepared the paste. When the crabs were cooked and quartered, I added them into the paste that was already simmering in the wok. The pungent peppery smell filled the air as I allowed the pieces to absorb the flavors into it's crevices for another five minutes.
At the table and armed with our nutcrackers, we proceeded to attack. With each crack of the pepper-encrusted legs, juices squirted out and onto our plates if we were careful. The crabs were so fresh and meaty! In my eagerness to scoop out the flesh, my first crack resulted in my dad's arm and shirt dripping with crab juice. Ack! Heehee. It was a fun, wonderfully messy and delicious lunch. We ate with our hands and we licked our fingers clean, smacking up all the flavor.
I wonder what other treasures we can look forward to from our local taho guy. More of these crabs would be great too!
Black Pepper Crab
taken from Cradle of Flavor by James Oseland
4 tbsp black peppercorns
8 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 pc fresh turmeric, peeled & chopped or 2 tsp ground turmeric
1 pc fresh ginger, abt 3 inches long, peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3 tbsp peanut oil
3/4 cup water
2 kg steamed king crab, quartered
Place the peppercorns in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground, about 30 seconds. Add the garlic, turmeric, and ginger and pulse until you have a relatively smooth paste. If the paste doesnt puree properly, you may add 1 or 2 tbsp water, periodically turning the processor off and scraping the sides down towards the blade.
Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. You can also user a Dutch oven or skillet. When the oil is ready, add the black pepper paste and saute, stirring as needed to prevent scorching, about 5 minutes.
Add the water and crab pieces and raise the heat to medium high. Stir-fry the crab pieces, stirring them constantly to combine them with the flavoring paste for about 5 minutes.
Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately. We served this with steamed rice and ripe pineapples.
This is another Black Pepper Crab recipe I'd like to try someday.