How To Use Aligue In Recipes

This crab paste is a delicious delicacy!

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People who love crabs know how delightful is it to discover that the crab they're eating has aligue. This bright yellow or orange-yellow stuff inside the crab is a delicacy! It's creamy, tastes like the sea but not exactly salty, and is similar to another seafood delicacy: sea urchin roe. You can even say it tastes a little like caviar! 

Known internationally as crab fat, crab mustard, or "tomalley" in some parts, it's also known as taba ng talangka since this is the kind of crabs that the aligue is harvested from. Aligue might be known as "crab fat" but it's not exactly "fat". What it actually is is part of the organs that you might know in mammals as the liver and the pancreas. If the yellow stuff inside the crab has grown hard after cooking, it's probably not aligue but the roe of the female talangka. This is just as prized as the "fat". 

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The talangka crab is a river crab that doesn't develop the hard shells of its other shelled cousins. These are tiny, about 65 grams in weight and it's so small, harvesting these tiny crustaceans for their meat is more work than it's probably worth. Instead, these are prized when still very small to cook as the pulutan or bar chow, crispy crablets, or for the aligue. 

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Since you'll need quite a number of talangka to make 1 cup (about 3 times the number of crabs is needed to make 1 cup), it's hard work indeed to harvest this. Fortunately, you can solve that by buying a bottle of it instead! 

The good news is that bottled aligue is already cooked. These are sauteed in oil, garlic, salt, and vinegar until cooked through. To use it in recipes, it can be a simple matter of adding it to the dish. Here are ideas on how to use it your favorite recipes: 

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1 Stir fry it with ampalaya.  

Ampalaya has a bitter reputation but if you know how to remove that bitterness that it's almost nonexistent, you will more likely want to eat a dish like this one. You might be even more encouraged to eat it if you know that it's been tossed with some aligue. Add egg to make it into a full meal you will heartily eat with rice. 

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2 Stir into rice. 

This is the most simple way to enjoy aligue! Grab a plate with freshly steamed rice and stir in a tablespoon or two. Add calamansi juice or even some patis if you're looking for a contrast of flavors! To make it truly a festive rice meal that's worthy of a special occasion, stir it into a bowl of fried rice with all the fixings: egg, mixed veggies, pieces of seafood, or even top it with whole pieces of sugpo or crab. 

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3 Coat pasta or noodles in it. 

The umami bomb that is aligue makes it a delicious addition to a seafood pasta sauce. The paste is easy to incorporate into the pasta sauce: just stir it in when you would normally add tomato paste so that the aligue can be heated through and will blend well into the sauce. Feel free to add more vinegar for that signature tangy taste you might want from tomatoes and season to taste with the salt and ground pepper. 

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4 Stir it into stews and soups. 

Seafood stews and soups are commonly made using shrimp shells and water you used to boil or steam crabs and other shellfish. If you are missing some flavor from these two ways of making seafood broth, you might want to add in some aligue to the stew or soup. The aligue will instantly boost the flavor up to a delicious spoonful you can easily become addicted to. 

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5 Make it into a sauce. 

Aligue is admittedly a powerful flavor. Not everyone may be a fan! For those who are still on the bench about whether they love it or hate it, you can give them the choice by adding it to the dish but on the side. In other words, make a sauce out of it! You can serve it on the side of a grilled dish such as grilled marlin or tuna belly, or you can serve the shrimps, crab, or fish lightly tossed in the sauce. Be creative about how it's served so they can decide if they just like it or love it. 

If you have never used aligue in your recipes, this is a great way to learn! Use the local ingredients that are available in your local supermarkets, such as aligue, and you may discover a new and delicious way of enjoying your meals through these new dishes. 

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Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!

Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on Yummy.ph by submitting your recipe here.

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