Everything about this dish is a celebration. The beautiful crab which forms the centerpiece - a true celebration of the amazing seafood that lives in our Australian waters. The use of punchy flavours, when married together in the perfect balance - a celebration of a cook's ability to use their palate to unify flavours in the most skilled of ways. And it is hard to miss the vibrant red and orange colour palette of this dish - a celebration in itself.
Caterina is a master when it comes to to recipe creation. Her pure dedication to arriving at the best end product is commendable. She's been making this dish for 18 years, and I tried it for the first time last week. Chilli crab... where have you been all my life? I sat for an hour with a plate of this saucy, sweet, salty, fiery hot, beautifully cooked crab. It didn't matter that my fingers and hands had turned into a red sticky mess, or that the saucy mess had travelled up to my elbows, or even that my perfectly white blouse had been smothered in a beautiful pattern of saucy smears. None of that mattered, because the celebration dancing in my mouth was pure perfection.
This dish is very much Caterina on a plate. It is a perfect, show-stopping, impressive dish, that ignites every sense. To celebrate a celebratory dish like this today is only befitting as it's Caterina's birthday (but don't tell her I told you, she hates attention). Caterina, thank you for existing, thank you for being, thank you for cooking the way you do! Just like your chilli crab, you are pure perfection!
2 medium mud crabs / 4 green blue swimmer crabs
4 tablespoons peanut oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 red chillies, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup sweet chilli sauce
1/2 cup coconut water
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/2 cup shallots, finely sliced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 egg whites, lightly whisked
Fried shallots & fresh coriander leaves, for garnishing
Serve with boiled rice
- Prepare the crabs by dispatching them humanely. To kill the mud crabs, place them, right side up, in an ice slurry. Leave the crab for 20-30 minutes. Pull the top shell (carapace) away from the body. Discard the gills and reserve any of the yellow tomalley from the head. Divide the body into quarters. Alternatively, you can have your fish monger kill and cut the crab.
- Heat the oil in a large wok. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger and cook until fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic.
- Add tomato sauce, chilli sauce, coconut water, hoisin sauce, shallots, fish sauce and sugar. Stir until ingredients are well combined. Bring to the boil.
- Add the crabs, and gently stir, coating the crabs in the sauce. Place the lid on the wok and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Turn the heat off and add the egg whites to the sauce. Stir to combine.
- Scatter with fried shallots and fresh coriander, and serve with boiled rice to soak up all the glorious flavours of the sauce.
Food photography, story and recipe creation by Effi Tsoukatos & Caterina Sterrantino for the Sydney Food Sisters