Sunday, March 11, 2007

By George! I Think She's Got It!

I've been out climbing around protea trees again this morning, cutting the blooms and setting up my stall on the roadside. I think I've become the metamorphosis of Eliza Doolittle!

While swinging from fragile tree branches, my mind turned to mud crabs. Perhaps I've mentioned previously that my mind works in mysterious ways, therefore, I am unable to explain why I would be thinking about mud crabs while cutting protea blooms. But, there I was, covered in leaves, hoping I wouldn't stumble upon wasps' nests and all I could think of was mud crabs!

It's best to keep out of a mud crab's way once you've caught him (you must throw back the 'Jennies' aka the is illegal to keep the female...she's breeding stock), because he's never too happy. An unhappy 'buck' aka male crab is not something you should shake hands with. Those two front claws of his can give you a nasty nip! I think it's because of his majestic arrogance that I love him so much. The mud crab does not go down without a fight!

When I was a child...I've written previously about our frequent jaunts to Tin Can Bay, mud crabs were frequently on the menu in our home. Of course, living on Hinchinbrook and Newry Islands sated my appetite (almost) for fresh mud crabs. My appetite for freshly cooked crabs will never be entirely satisfied. As with all fresh seafood, simple is the best to my way of thinking. My favourite way of presenting and eating mud crab is by just boiling a whole crab for 12-14 minutes in boiling salted water, to which a small amount of sugar has been added. Remove cooked crabs (they turn orange when cooked), run cold water over them to stop them from further cooking. Cool, crack open and devour! There is no lady-like way to eat mud crabs, so don't even try. Just get in there and savour every succulent piece of its tender, sweet flesh.

Before you cook your catch, be humane and kill the crabs first. This can be done by putting the crabs in the freezer for half an hour while you get the pot on the boil or the wok heated. Another reason to put them under is that when live crabs are immersed in boiling water or hot oil, they thrash about and tend to discard legs and claws (and make a mess of the kitchen).

The mud crab is a large dark brownish-green crab that grows up to 25 cm (about 10 in) and weigh up to 3.5 kg (almost 8 lb). Mud crabs use their large claws to catch prey and defend themselves from attackers. Mud crabs hide in the muddy bottoms of estuaries and mangrove forests during the day and come out to hunt at night. They do, however, migrate from estauries, mangrove forests and salt-water lakes such as Lake Weyba at Noosa, further out to sea. The mud crab's back legs are flattened to help them swim. As they travel along the open coast, that's is what is seen above the water, just a flurry of their flattened back legs propelling them along. Mud crabs can be found in a large area ranging from the northern half of Australia, the Philippines, the east coast of Africa and Pacific islands including Samoa and Fiji. They eat molluscs, small crabs, snails and worms. Don't be fooled into thinking their flesh tastes muddy because of their time spent in the estuaries and mangrove areas. The flesh of a mud crab is very sweet and juicy.

I've mentioned I prefer eating mud crabs simply prepared, served with freshly-baked bread, butter, salt, pepper and vinegar, but I will share with you a couple of recipes in case you feel like something more exotic.

BAKED MUD CRAB: By cooking in an oven bag,you retain all the flavour and moisture.
1 cleaned fresh mud crab cut down the middle, legs separated and claws cracked.
2 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil or you can use butter or margarine if you wish. Flavouring of your choice i.e. Garlic, chilli, coriander etc. Place into an oven bag and try to coat the crab all over with the marinade. Seal with a twist tie, puncture bag in 2 to 3 places with a small knife and place on a small baking tray either on top of the grill or hot plate. Cook on LOW to MEDIUMfor approximately 20-30 minutes, or until crab changes colour and looks cooked. Serve with fresh crusty bread to soak up juices.

Chilli Mud Crab: Drop the crab into a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. This will give some colour and start the cooking process. Take the crab out and place in a bowl of cold water to stop it cooking further. Using a sharp knife, cleaver or chicken shears, chop the crab into pieces, cracking the claws with a mallet or pestle. Remove the "head sac" and feathery gills.
Cooking oil - 3 teaspoons (peanut oil with a touch of sesame oil is best)

Ginger slices - quantiy to taste
Garlic crushed or finely chopped - 2 cloves
Spring onion - slice up a couple of stalks
Sliced Chilli - 2 to 3 chillis but vary to your taste
Fermented black beans

Chopped crab pieces
1 cup Stock - chicken OR water with a dash of soy OR coconut milk - your choice
1 Egg
Fresh herbs e.g. coriander, parsley, etc.

Get the ingredients ready BEFORE you start cooking as this doesn't take long! Heat the wok and get the oil really hot. Cook the ginger and garlic for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the crab, spring onions, chilli and fermented black beans and toss together until the crab shell turns bright red. Add stock, cover and simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes.To finish, crack the egg into the stock and stir forming shreds. Add the herbs and serve.

I'm drooling here as I type this! What have I started? I think I'll run away and become a pirate!


  1. Become a pirate oh no you don't unless you take me along. :) I like the recipes and the way you describe them.

  2. Yo! Ho! Me 'arty! You behave yourself, Sandra, or I'll make you walk the plank! ;) Good to see you...hope all is well with you over your way. Thanks for can try those recipes with crayfish, lobster etc., even shrimp/prawns...just experiment with what you like. :)

  3. Mmmmnnnn Mud crabs,simply love them.
    They were once a staple part of my diet when my boys were growing up and we lived at Wynnum. Enjoyed the final chapter about Andrei
    Cheers Margaret

  4. lee,
    Climbing trees and thinking about mud crabs...I think someone? ;-0 should write a book about you and your "escapades". It's sure to be a best seller.
    I've never had crab, muddy or otherwise, but you make it sound delicious.

  5. Hi Lee ~~ The poteas sound nice, but
    I am not one for any sea food. Sorry.
    So glad to know we have another Carlton supporter. I just loved Jezza
    and his wonderful marks, and even the fun one he made last year where they lift him up to mark. You were lucky to know him and so was he lucky to know YOU. I hope we can beat Brisbane this weekend. Peter barracks for Bris
    so we could come to blows.Take care,
    dear friend, Love, Merle.

  6. Hi Lee,
    I came here via Welshcakes Limoncello. I'm a tranplanted Aussie(old Sydney gal) living in Canada (45 yrs). Mostly read medblogs (retired hospital pharmacist)but am branching out.
    I'll be back to check it out.

  7. Anonymous11:58 AM

    I would love to try a mud crab. Up to 8lbs. that sounds like a fairly large crab.

  8. sounds so yummy. I'll have to try it for myself. I was wondering if you would like to add your blog to my directory? Thanks, Shelly

  9. Margaret...I love mud crabs, too...even the aroma of them cooking makes me drool!

    Rel...if you ever make it to Aus, the first thing you must try is a muddie! They are delicious! don't like seafood...ha! All the more for me! ;) Jesaulenko certainly is a legend in his own time and a wonderful person to boot. After he and Ann left Noosa they headed north to Holloways Beach north of Cairns and managed "The Beach Hut"...a bar, restaurant and accommodation, before they headed south again.

    jmb...welcome to my blog. Thanks for popping come back again. Nice to meet an ex-pat Aussie!

    SteveG...mud crabs do grow quite large...and there's nothing nicer than a couple of huge, fat claws to munch on!

    Shelley...thanks for your invitation. I shall do so.

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. :)

  10. Lee, as you know, I can't eat fish or seafood. But the photos look wonderful. I don't think I'd like to get too near one of those things so if I were over there, would heed your warnings. I like your comment on "no lady-like way" because that is how I feel about spaghetti! Also glad you are a "humane" cook [inasmuch as we non-veggie cooks ever can be]. Thanks for another great post.

  11. No, I wasn't aware you couldn't eat seafood of any description, Welsh. What a shame...there's nothing I can't eat...which could be a blessing or not!

    There are some foods when only hands will do in the demolishing thereof and crabs are one of those! ;)

  12. A crab that grows to 8 lbs? Yikes! Our local blue crabs are trophies if they make .8 lbs.

    Do mud crabs go though the soft shell stage? My Dad (82 yrs old) loves battered and fried softshell crabs. I can't stand watching them being 'et, let alone try one.

  13. Yes, they do, Gto...but nobody takes them at that stage. They usually go into a hibernation at that stage and they're not around to catch. There's an old myth that muddies are caught only in months that have an 'r' in them...which means four months of the year they're hiding away...or migrating.

    As I mentioned in my post, female mud crabs (Jennies) are illegal, which is good but the Jenny grows so big that they're unable to for breed anyway as the male crab can't mount them. Perhaps over a certain size the female should be allowed to be kept, but in my opinion and taste the female doesn't taste as good as the 'buck', male crab.

  14. Lee, the idea of cooking something in boiling water that is going to 'thrash about and throw off arms and legs' - ummm...

    But the recipes do sound delicious, thanks

  15. That's why you should freeze the muddies, first, they don't thrash around! Try is the best way.

  16. Mud crabs sound delicious. They sound much bigger than our crabs here in the San Francisco bay. I gobble those when they are in season. They are about $4.00/pound.

  17. Gidday Lee,
    You're drooling...what about me and the other poor souls who've read this story. That was a very cruel (yummy) description about MUD CRABS (look you've made me shout).
    To think there are some people who don't like seafood and Peter at Holties House is one of them.
    There's no acounting for some people's there!!
    A W.A. crayfish is also a enjoyable eat and sometimes I treat myself to one of these. Oh, oh I'm starting to drool again!!

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