Everything You Need To Know About Crabs
We have a few tips on how to choose, buy, and store crabs.
You don't usually serve crabs every day: you usually only find it on the table during fiestas, parties, and special events. But if you love crabs, you don’t need to wait for a special occasion to have these delicious shellfish. Armed with a few tips and tricks, you can buy, prep, and cook crabs like an expert.
When to buy
You can purchase crabs at its most practical prices between June until early September, when demand is very low. While prices are also dependent on the export market, crabs are typically the most expensive during the holidays, and prices soar even more when there is an upcoming Chinese holiday.
Expect crabs to become particularly pricey leading to and during the end of the ghost month (September), Chinese New Year, the Moon Cake Festival (beginning of the harvest season), and other Chinese holidays.
How to Choose A Crab
There are usually four breeds of crabs found in markets, namely the native crab, king crab, alimasag (blue crabs), and Cruzan (red crabs).
Native crabs and king crabs are species of mud crabs. These crabs have incredibly thick shells and large, powerful claws (pincers). Its coloring range from reddish-brown (native crabs) to muddy green-brown and almost black (king crabs) which helps it blend into the mud. The claws are particularly thick, making this breed perfect if you love crab claws.
The blue crab meanwhile is the more common breed you’ll find in supermarkets. It’s the most common, probably because it is one of tastiest. These sea-dwelling crabs are much smaller than mud crabs, with thinner claws, and its shell is distinctly blue-hued, hence the name. These blue colors change to orange once cooked.
The Cruzan crab is an export quality crab. It’s identifiable from its reddish with white coloring, particularly the cross pattern on its shell which is where it gets its name. This is an expensive crab, prices ranging from P1,500 per kilo and up but it's delicious, so if you can afford it, these make for an impressive meal.
There’s another crab that has become popular in recent years: soft-shelled crabs. These are actually just blue crabs caught during its molting season. It’s basically a very young crab, which has shed its now too-small shell and has grown a new and bigger shell that has yet to harden into the familiar hard shell we know. Because this shell is soft, it can be eaten whole, usually deep fried or sautéed.
Whichever breed you want to buy, remember to always purchase live crabs, just like any shellfish, and cook on the day of purchase for best results.
How To Differentiate The Males From The Females
To tell if a crab is a male, female, or young crab, check the flap, or apron, on the underside of the crab shell. Male crabs have a pointed apron, females have a rounded apron, and young crabs have a semi-pointed apron. Males crabs also have larger claws.
How to Check For Aligue
Aligue, or the orange-colored fat, is usually found under the apron of female crabs. If buying from a wet market, ask the seller to gently check for aligue by peeking under the apron using a thin knife. When shopping at the supermarket though, they might not check for you, so gently lift to check to prevent injuring or accidentally killing the crab.
How to Store Crabs
Crabs are best cooked on the day of purchase, but if you have to store, note that mud crabs can live longer out of the water (to as much as four days at room temperature) than blue or Cruzan crabs.
With so much information about crabs, you are now well armed with all you need to know on how to buy the best crabs to serve for your next seafood feast.