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Steamed Blue Crabs with Black Ginger Dipping Sauce

Gourmet

January 2007

Gourmet Magazine Logo

Diary of a Foodie: Season One: H2O

Serves 6

Active Time:20 min
Start to Finish:35 min

Blue crabs take a little more work to eat than larger crabs like Dungeness, but their sweet flavor is worth the extra effort. Blue crabs are commercially harvested from New York to Florida—including, most famously, Chesapeake Bay—and the Gulf Coast states. (The best are available from late summer to early fall.) But if you're landlocked or on the West Coast, you can order live blue crabs from The Crab Place (877-328-2722; crabplace.com) anytime you're feeling shellfish.

  • ½ cup fresh cilantro stems, coarsely chopped
  • 36 live blue crabs (¼ to a third lb each; 3 dozen), well rinsed
  • 1½ to 2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • ½ cup fermented fine-quality soy sauce
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar, preferably Chinkiang, or cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Special equipment: a wide 6- to 8-qt heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid

Bring 1 1/2 inches water to a boil in pot. Add cilantro stems, then carefully add half of crabs using tongs and return to a boil. Cook, covered with lid, 8 minutes (for 1/4-pound crabs) to 10 minutes (for 1/3-pound crabs) from time they enter water. (Break shell of 1 claw to check for doneness; crabmeat should be opaque.) Transfer crabs with long-handled tongs to a large platter, reserving cooking liquid in pot, and keep warm, loosely covered with foil. Cook remaining crabs in same manner.

While crabs cook, stir together ginger (to taste), soy sauce, sugar, water, vinegar, and salt in a small bowl until sugar and salt are dissolved.

If necessary, dip crabs in cooking liquid to remove any external residue, then transfer to another large platter. Serve crabs hot, with dipping sauce.