This is really basic but since I’ve been on about Thai food I might as well throw this in. As you may be aware (or not) that I am currently in love with my local fish monger (it’s an accent thing) and I have been buying some really good crustaceans and shellfish from them over the past weeks.
Josh is unfortunately not into crabs (and crustaceans in general. Lobsters had been wasted on him) the way I am. He’s just generally not mad about seafood like I am. So on a Saturday night when I was home alone, I cooked myself a seafood feast for one.
I bought two very fresh blue swimmers – they were about $5 each but they were absolutely, gorgeously fresh. Fresh crabs are quite heavy for their size and pack bright colours. I rinsed the crabs of any grit and place them in snugly in a frying pan (anything will do as long as there’s a fitted lid and the crabs fit quite snugly). No water was necessary. The crabs themselves held enough water to steam them. I closed the lid and put them on high heat and leave them to steam for 10 minutes. I turned the heat down to medium after 5 minutes.
In Thailand, we always eat our seafood hot. My Mum was horrified when she discovered the favourite cold seafood platter in Australia. She still won’t go near the stuff. In fact, she is horrified at the idea of cold savoury food in general. Crabs, prawns and shellfish are always steamed or grilled on charcoal. And we serve it with the seafood sauce.
(my awesome mortar and pestle)
The Thai seafood sauce probably needs a bit of initiating for the non-Thais. It’s basically pounded fresh garlic and green chillis (those fierce little varieties). Fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar are then mixed together in whatever proportion that suits each family’s taste. In my family, we tend to go for more tangy and salty note whereas my aunt’s family prefers it a bit sweeter – so when she comes over, we always make up a sweeter batch for her.
I pounded 2 cloves of garlic, 3 Thai green chillis* with a pinch of salt. The salt grains helped the crush the chillis and garlic a bit more effective. I then added juice of a lemon and the same amount of Thai fish sauce. I then add a pinch of palm sugar (or if none is available, plain sugar). From there, it’s a matter of taste – add a bit more of fish sauce, lemon juice or sugar to taste. Thai dipping sauce is not diluted with water the way Vietnamese nouc cham is. So don’t do that.
Yes, your breath will smell for the next two days. Fresh garlic is not for the faint-hearted. Worth it. Well, I think it is anyway.
* These are the prik kee noo, I only see them at the Vietnamese green grocer – these are not the ones marked as Thai chillis in your local supermarket – if these are not available, use one very fresh bird’s eye chilli instead. We need roughly about 1:1 of chilli/garlic volume ratio. Too much chilli, too spicy. Too much garlic, too garlicky.