Vietnamese Crab Recipe: Cua Xao Sate

Vietnamese Crab Recipe: Cua Xao Sate Recipe

If you adore seafood as much as I do, you're in for a treat. This is a typical Vietnamese sauteed crab recipe called cua xào satế. The key to this recipe is in the preparation of the crab itself.

First, everything in the crab was used. What made the sauce was the use of "crab butter" as well as the corals from the inside of the crab. Then, I deep-fried the rest of the crabs and tossed them in a fragrant sauce called "satế," which consisted of garlic, ginger, hoisin sauce, glass noodles and plenty of fresh chiles.


Yields: 8 servings

6 whole fresh crabs, cleaned and separated
2 cups vegetable oil
4 shallots, thinly sliced
¼ cup hoisin sauce (or oyster sauce)
1 teaspoon rock sugar (or granulated sugar), grated
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
1 (3-ounce) package bean thread noodles (optional), soaked, drained and cut into 1" pieces
2 green Thai chile peppers, stemmed and sliced on the bias
1 green onion, finely sliced
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1¼ teaspoons mushroom seasoning salt (or regular table salt), to taste
2 teaspoons freshly cracked pepper, to taste


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 and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Toss well and set aside for 15 minutes.

In a wok, heat the oil. Add the shallots and cook for about 3-4 minutes until slightly golden and fragrant. Transfer to a plate, leaving as much shallot-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 mushroom seasoning salt to the wok. Jiggle the wok 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 hoisin sauce (or oyster sauce), sugar and reserved crab brain. Cook for 1 minute, then return the crab pieces and add the drained noodles to the wok. Stir fry until evenly distributed. Pour in ½ to 1 cup of water 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 the green onions and green chiles. 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 shallots. Toss the crab and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a large serving platter.

Serve with glass noodles or steamed jasmine rice on the side.

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 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.

For added saltiness, you could add dried shrimp (can be found in any Asian market). Dried shrimp (tôm khô in Vietnamese) add a unique, briny taste to the crab. This ingredient is very common in Vietnamese cuisine. I sometimes add some to fried rice (cơm chiên tôm)but when cooked, the taste is very different.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on February 11, 2014.


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