Fermented Black Bean Crab Recipe

Fermented Black Bean Crab Recipe Recipe

We had a giant seafood feast last weekend, and believe it or not, we cooked 12 whole crabs. The main flavoring of this dish was fermented black beans, which are very common in Asian cooking. I also added fresh green chiles and a lot of Thai basil leaves. 

The crabs are prepared in two steps. First, they're fried, and then to finish them off, they are stir-fried with the fermented bean sauce and a bit of cooking wine. It gets a bit messy around the stove, but the result is worth the effort!


Yields: 8 servings

6 whole fresh crabs, cleaned and separated
2 cups vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons black bean garlic sauce, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
½ cup dry white wine
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, to taste
2 teaspoons freshly cracked pepper, to taste
¼ cup Thai basil leaves, coarsely chopped


Gather the pieces of crab in a large mixing bowl and reserve the crab brain (from inside the main shells) separately in another small bowl. Pat dry. Add cayenne pepper, turmeric and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Toss well and set aside for 15 minutes.

Slightly bruise the basil leaves in a mortar and pestle with ¼ teaspoon salt, so they're fragrant.

In a wok, heat the oil. Add the onions and cook for about 3-4 minutes until slightly golden and fragrant. Transfer to a plate, leaving as much onion-flavored oil in the pan as possible.

Dredge the crab with tapioca flour using a strainer and immediately fry the crab pieces in 3 batches, adding a teaspoon of salt to the wok. Jiggle the pan to make sure the crab doesn't stick to the bottom and is totally coated with oil and slightly crispy. Remove and discard the oil, leaving about 2 tablespoons left in the wok. Add the black bean sauce and reserved crab brain. Cook for 1 minute, then return the crab pieces to the wok. Stir fry until evenly distributed. Pour in the wine and scrape the solids at the bottom of the pan. Constantly toss the crab to ensure each piece is coated with the liquid. As soon as all the liquid evaporates, add ½ to one cup of water (so the sauce isn't too watery but has a thick consistency) and the basil. Cover and cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring often. The crab meat should be white and opaque and the liquid should be evaporated as well. Do not over-cook the crab; or the meat will be dry! Un-cover and add the reserved onions. Toss the crab and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a large serving platter.

Serve immediately.

Bon appétit!


It's important to crack the claws slightly before cooking so the liquid penetrates into the meat. I use a hammer, but you can also use the back of a knife or a meat tenderizer mallet; just make sure to crack the shell and not crush it. You don't want to be eating bits of shell!

For this dish, it's important to always keep the temperature of the stove at the highest setting. The higher the temperature, the better. If some solids start sticking to the bottom of the pan, add more wine or a little water.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on February 21, 2013.


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