Salt and pepper red crab

Salt and pepper red crab

The Food of Vietnam
Alan Benson

Right in the middle of Ha Long Bay is a floating market with different netted areas where you’ll find lobster, clams, mantis prawns, varieties of fish, squid, cuttlefish and crab. I chose the best-looking red crabs and made this dish right on the edge of the floating markets. You can’t get much fresher than this, but do use the freshest crabs you can get hold of.


Quantity Ingredient
2 live blue swimmer or mud crabs
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
potato starch or cornflour, for dusting
3 red asian shallots, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
3 spring onions, cut into 5 cm lengths
2 long red chillies, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Salt and pepper seasoning

Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon five-spice


  1. To kill your crabs humanely, place them in the freezer for 1 hour, or submerge them in an ice bath for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the salt and pepper seasoning ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Remove the upper shell of each crab, pick off the gills, which look like little fingers, and discard them. Clean the crabs under cold running water and drain. Working one at a time, place each crab on its stomach and chop it in half with a heavy cleaver. Now chop each half into four pieces, chopping each piece after each leg. With the back of the cleaver, gently crack each claw — this makes it easier to extract the meat.
  4. Half-fill a large wok or deep saucepan with oil and heat to 200°C, or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns brown in 5 seconds.
  5. Dust the crab pieces with the potato starch, shaking off the excess. Deep-fry the crab in batches for 3 minutes, turning over once, until golden brown. Remove from the wok and drain on paper towels. Remove the oil, reserving 2 tablespoons, and clean out the wok.
  6. Heat the reserved oil in the wok, then add the shallot and garlic and fry for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
  7. Return the crab to the wok with the spring onion and chilli. Add the salt and pepper seasoning to taste.
  8. Serve with steamed jasmine rice and finger bowls.
The Food of Vietnam
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