This crab soup , simply called súp cua in Vietnamese, was my attempt to finish the leftover crab from last night's dinner. We bought six crabs for the two people who actually eat seafood in our house, so there was a fair amount unfinished. I prepared cua rang me (Vietnamese tamarind crab) and that's basically all we ate with a little salad on the side. We were so full by the end of the meal that we could not finish the dish. It was our Mount Everest and we didn't conquer it!
I didn't want to waste the delicious crab, so I cracked the rest and gathered the crab meat. I had chicken stock in the freezer and I thickened it with a little corn starch. I added frozen corn and green onions to the soup and the result was just as I expected: mildly sweet, velvety and wonderfully soothing. Simply perfect!
Servings: 8 servings
10 cups chicken stock
1 whole fresh crab (or store-bought, see tips)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or any neutral oil)
1½ cups frozen corn
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1½ teaspoons mushroom seasoning salt (or salt)
3½ tablespoons corn starch
½ white onion, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground
½ cup nước mắm (fish sauce), for drizzling
Prepping the crab:
Clean the crab, brush and rinse thoroughly. Place in a pot, add about ½ to 1 cup of water and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes (see tips). Transfer to an ice water bath for about 3 minutes to stop the cooking process. Drain and discard all the liquid.
Remove and discard the abdominal flaps (the triangle-shaped tail). Lift and separate the back-fin with the rest of the claws by placing a large tablespoon at the bottom of the crab. Remove and discard the "lungs" (also known as Devil's fingers; they have a spongy texture and are inedible.
Gently remove the crab meat from the back-fins (the inner chambers are filled with meat). Gently crack the claws using a meat tenderizer mallet and gather all the crab meat in a large mixing bowl.
For the corn:
In a saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook until slightly golden. Add the corn, crab and green onions. Add red chili powder and mushroom seasoning salt. Sauté for about 2 minutes until fragrant. Add cilantro. Stir well and set aside.
In a small bowl, dissolve the corn starch into ¾ cup of water.
In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a full boil. Adjust seasoning, if necessary. Crack the eggs in a small bowl. Gently break the egg yolks using a fork. Make sure the soup is boiling and add a little bit of lightly beaten eggs at a time while stirring the liquid. The heat from the soup will slightly cook the eggs and will create yellow and white threads.
Mix the corn starch liquid one more time and add it to the boiling broth to prevent the starch from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Continuously stir the broth as it will thicken very quickly. Add the corn, onions and crab. Check the texture of the sauce; it should be thick and velvety. If you find the soup to be too thick, add more water. Cook for about 2 minutes. Stir gently.
Sprinkle with white pepper. Aerve with nước mắm on the side.
For the crab cooking time, count approximately 8 minutes per pound.
As PhamFatale editor Carole would say, "there’s also the possibility of buying already cooked whole crabs from a supermarket or fish market, where they’ll usually clean and crack them for you."
Mushroom seasoning salt brings a distinct, earthy flavor to the soup. You can find it at gourmet specialty stores or in most Korean stores. You could replace it with regular salt.