The ABCs of landing the freshest and fleshiest catch.
Ask any Singaporean about our national dish and Chilli Crab will come to mind. The star ingredient is, of course, the mud crab, whose larger varieties hail from Sri Lanka. Whether you’re cooking at home or dining out, you’ll want the meatiest ones to get the most bang for your buck. But choosing crabs by size is not always the best way – if you pick a freshly moulted one, you’ll be disappointed to find that it barely fills out its new shell. Follow these tips from Julian Lee, CEO of local seafood supplier GoFresh, and you’ll never go wrong again!
You want a live crab – not one that’s dying or dead. The carcass turns bad in a matter of hours. Choose from the feisty and aggressive ones, or at least, those that are moving.
Study the underside, in particular the light-coloured triangular flap. Males have narrow bellies while the females’ are wide and rounded. Press the centre of the flap with a finger to test its firmness. A fleshy crab has a firm, bulging and yellow tinted belly. A soft belly, often with a blue tinge, indicates that the crab is losing its reserves (read: flesh).
Another tell-tale sign of a full-grown crab is well-used claws. Check its right claw – the one it uses to crush its prey – for blunt or flattened teeth.
Ignore your tendency to go for bright, shiny things and opt for the crab with a duller shell or even “battle scars” like scratches. A worn shell suggests that the crab is ready to moult (shed its existing one) and is well fed (fleshy).
Fresh crustaceans should be odourless. Steer clear of those that reek of ammonia.
Opt for crabs kept in a dry place. Crabs stored in water tanks use up more energy and lose their reserves more quickly. Ask the seller when the crabs were caught – they should ideally be cooked within two days of being caught.
No markets nearby? Get your crabs online instead. GoFresh stocks a good range of live and pre-cooked seafood, including crabs.
Looking for a great seafood restaurant, click here!
Article first appeared in Shape, September 2014