Chili Crab

This spicy crab dinner is guaranteed to make a mess, so cover the table with old newspapers, set out finger bowls, and line up some cold beers. Buying fresh crabs may be a bit of a production, depending on where you live, and you may need to preorder them. Big beautiful Dungeness crabs from the West Coast are my preference, but you can substitute whatever kinds of live crabs are available near you, increasing the quantity accordingly if your local variety is smaller in size. Either way, oh, what a party. If you can only find whole crabs that are already cooked, just skip the first step of plunging them in boiling water to cook.


Two 2-pound live Dungeness crabs (see kitchen note below)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 shallots, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 small red jalapeno chili, finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped or grated peeled fresh ginger

1/3 cup Chinese Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon Thai-style sweet chili sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

Fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish


This dish is best served as soon as it is made.
To prepare the crabs:

To kill the crabs humanely, place them in the freezer for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

Once the crabs are no longer moving, plunge them into the boiling water for about 60 seconds or just until the shells begin to turn red. Remove the crabs from the water and set them on a baking sheet to cool.

Remove the legs and claws and lightly tap the body shell with the back of a knife to crack it. Remove the top shell from each crab body and clean the insides with your fingers. Using a large sharp knife, cut the main body of each crab into 4 pieces.

To cook the crabs and serve:

Place a large wok over high heat. When it is hot, drizzle the oil into the wok. Add the shallots, garlic, jalapeno, and ginger and stir for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add all the crab pieces, including the claws, and stir for 5 minutes. Add the Chinese rice wine and stir for 3 minutes, or until the wine is reduced by half.

Combine the vinegar, soy sauce, sweet chili, and sugar in a small bowl, and drizzle the mixture over the crabs. Toss to combine and cook for 2 minutes, or until the crab meat is cooked through.

Transfer the crab pieces to a serving platter and spoon the sauce over them. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, and serve.