July 14, 2007

Black pepper crabs

black pepper crab

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.


Lydia said...

I love chili crabs and any variation of that dish -- how lucky you were to get fresh crabs and to have a mom who would cook them with you! Wish I lived closer....

The Knittymommy said...

mmmrmmrmmrmrmrmrmmmmmmmm! You just tickled my crab loving palate. I will definitely try this in the very.near.future.

Belinda said...

What an interesting story about the taho man! I find all of these lovely food blogs from all around the world to be so fascinating, and I love getting a glimpse into the lives of other cookings enthusiasts from all the corners of our planet! :-)

christine said...

Lydia, how fun if you lived closer! Especially for me, then I could join your cooking groups and try your delicious food! :)

KM, I love crab too, in all forms! I want to experiment with more variations. Try it and let me know if you like it. :)

Belinda, thanks. :) I know what you mean. I especially love food blogs from exotic (to me) places. It's the next best thing to travelling there myself to try all the wonderful local cuisine. :)

Baking Soda said...

Christine, to have such bounty at your doorstep! I'm with Belinda here, it is indeed so fascinating to read and get a glimpse of the life people lead and the things that are regular for them!
I feel we lead a very simple and uneventfull life here in Holland. I mean cheese icecream and crabs delivered on your doorstep.. wow!

M.Tan said...

OOO, send the taho man down our way!!!!! lol

Great photo Nena! Looks like a perfect shot, lighting and all!

oggi said...

I miss the magtataho:=(
Oh, I know for a fact why it's called 'dirty' ice cream.:)
BTW, the peppered crabs look so yuuummy, I must try this recipe ASAP!

ScroochChronicles said...

I've been buying taho from the same taho guy for the last 20 something years. Can you believe it? Now, even my kids are his sukis.

Hey, the crab recipe is a must-try. As always, the pic looks good enough to eat :)

christine said...

Hi Karen! While I agree with you completely that it's fascinating to read blogs of those who live all over the world, I know for a fact that your life in Holland is anything but uneventful! What about all that stroopwaffel, poffertjes (?), and I am told by a good friend that your oliebollen is fantastic! :)

Thanks so much, Mila! :)

Oggi, why is it called dirty ice cream? Is it because of the texture and the specks on the ice cream?

Cookie, isn't it so nice to have such constants in our life? A magtataho you can always rely on usually at the same time of day, everyday. :)

canDIshhh said...

Oooooooh!! I love Crabs! Will ask my mom to cook some for us! It's so hard to find crabs that are sweet! The ones we got recently were really really thin.. :(

About your Taho guy, LUCKY YOU! I have been craving for that since March this year and STILL I have not heard any 'Taho' shouts from our streets! I sort of became obsessed with having it that whenever I hear shouts - I automatically assume that it's the taho guy, but it never was... :(

fried green tomato said...

BEAUTIFUL picture!

rowena said...

What a fine-looking dish...that tempts the crab cracker out of me! I've never seen crab, large ones at that, on italian menus. In fact I've yet to see a tool for snapping large claws.

One thing though, I had to read this line twice --the unmistakable bell of my favorite 'dirty' ice cream man-- Eh? Sorry, but I think my cynical self couldn't help but zone in on the, uh....dirt. ;-)

christine said...

Hi Di! You're right, it's not easy to find good, sweet fleshy crabs in Manila as in the provinces. But we've been pretty happy with the ones we get at dampa. My friend buys her crustaceans at the new place on Macapagal Blvd, I have yet to shop there for seafood. I hear it's an excellent place! I miss taho from the streets as well, I'm not home during the afternoons when he usually passes by so I haven't had any in a long time. Too long! :)

Thank you, fried green! :)

Rowena, haha. It's just what it's called and of course it's not really dirty. It's a term Filipinos have come to accept that most don't even question the origin of the name. I just always assumed it was the texture (it's not as creamy as regular ice cream but far from being a sherbet). It's real name is Sorbetes, but now I've become curious too as to why it's called "dirty". Hopefully Oggi can enlighten us. :)

joey said...

Great pix Nens! And so delicious looking...I'm drooling! :) I noticed those black pepper crabs on Rasa Malaysia too...hope you'll be cooking this for our next get together!

oggi said...

My F-I-Law who worked at SMC told us that powdered milk rejects (which we jokingly called sweepings) at their Magnolia ice cream plant were re-sold to 'dirty' ice cream makers who were not subject to government health inspections at the time. The milk powder were not actually dirty but the name stuck and my FIL would not let us give my then 2 year old son 'dirty' ice cream. My hubby and I bought the cheese and the ube ice cream sandwich for the two of us on a regular basis:D

Ginny said...

nens, nice pic of the crabs. the boys would have loved this especially julio who eats peppercorns whole!!

Angel said...

Thanks for the black pepper crab recipe. Interesting story of a magtataho selling crabs. Anong isinigaw niya?

christine said...

Thanks, Jo! Sure thing, it's easy naman to cook. :) Will add chili next time though, I left it out for my mom's sake.

Oggi, that makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the interesting info. :) I miss those ice cream sandwiches! What I haven't tried though is eating the ice cream in a pan de sal , which is how I see a lot of Pinoys do. :)

Thanks, Gins! Funny, I never knew that about Julio. Though I know he has 'interesting' eating habits and will actually eat almost anythin. It's so nice to eat with him! :)

Angel, that's a good question! haha I'll have to ask my mom tonight. :)

Paris said...

Food posts always make me feel hungry. I would recommend this dish to my auntie. She loves to cook crabs

Mae said...

That looks so temptingly delicious, Lydia! There's plentiful of chancre crabs here in Jersey but not King crabs. I'm sure it would go well too. I love chilli crab. I should try this version someday too. :)

Mae said...

Christine, forgive me, i meant 'Christine' not 'Lydia', duh! I saw Lydia's comment right next to the comment box and somehow had the name on my brain! Has that every happened to you? I know it's just me. I'm a freak! :)

christine said...

Hi Paris! Hope your auntie likes this recipe. And I know what you mean about food posts, I try to avoid them when I'm on a diet but it doesn't work! :)

Haha Mae, yup that's happened to me too, happens to the best of us! :) Chili crabs are a favorite of mine, for sure.

Midge said...

That looks amazing! I wish our magtataho sold such gorgeous crustaceans!

ScroochChronicles said...

Hi Christine! You've been nominated :)


christine said...

Midge, they're wonderful and I love the convenience of it being sold at our doorstep. :)My mom keeps buying now, once a week at least. So she made chili crabs last night.

Cookie, wow, thank you very much! :) I'm very flattered. What a wonderful way to start the week! You rock!

SteamyKitchen said...

This photo looks so PERFECT. I want some black pepper crab for breakfast now!

christine said...

Thank you very much, Steamykitchen! :)