Stuffed Crab Shells
Called cua farci in Vietnamese, these stuffed crab shells make for an excellent appetizer or a light meal when served with a salad on the side. The dish reflects a French influence: The word farci is French for “stuffed,” for example, and the dish contains butter. But it is very much Vietnamese in flavor and texture. After you have enjoyed Atlantic blue crabs or small stone crabs (with black claws) in other dishes, scrub the shells and save them to make this dish. Otherwise, you can use individual soufflé dishes or ramekins.
Stuffed Crab Shells
Noodles Every Day, Corinne Trang
1.25 ounces mung bean noodles (1 small bundle), soaked in water until pliable
4 large fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and caps minced
12 ounces coarsely ground pork
1 pound lump crabmeat
1 large shallot, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 Atlantic blue crab shells, about 5 inches from point to point
½ cup (1 stick) butter, cut into 24 thin slices
Fried Scallions in Oil (recipe follows) for serving
Sweet, Sour, and Spicy Fish Sauce (recipe follows) for serving
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Drain the noodles, then chop them and put them in a large bowl. Add the shiitakes, pork, crabmeat, shallot, garlic, and eggs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine the ingredients thoroughly.
Divide the stuffing equally among the 12 crab shells (or ramekins), smoothing out the top. Place 2 pats of butter (next to one another) on top of each serving, and bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
Spoon some scallion oil (including scallions) on top of each stuffed crab. Serve with Sweet, Sour, and Spicy Fish Sauce on the side, and instruct guests to drizzle some sauce over the stuffed crabs.
Fried Scallions in Oil
Scallions, or green onions, play as great a role in Asian cuisines as do ginger and garlic. This condiment is often drizzled over rice noodles, adding a deliciously sweet flavor and a bright green color, which contrasts with the stark white noodles. Often the scallions are fried just long enough to infuse the oil, barely changing their color; other times they are fried until pale gold. There is no right or wrong way. It simply depends on the preference of the cook. Fried Scallions in Oil taste best if consumed within 3 days, but can be kept refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
¾ cup vegetable oil
8 scallions, trimmed and chopped
In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the scallions, and let sizzle for 1 minute. Turn off the heat (the scallions will continue sizzling for a while) and cool completely in the pan. Transfer the scallions and flavored oil to a container with a lid.
Makes about 1½ cups.
Sweet, Sour, and Spicy Fish Sauce
This sweet and sour fish sauce dip is made spicy with chopped chilies and garlic, while fresh-squeezed lime or lemon gives it a sour edge. Called nuoc cham or nuoc mam cham in Vietnamese, it is the ubiquitous condiment of the Vietnamese table. Drizzle it over grilled meat set atop thin rice noodles tossed with shredded vegetables for refreshing fare, perfect for summer.
For a mild sauce, slice the garlic and chilies. For a spicier one, mince them. This sauce will keep for up to 1 week. Bottled fish sauce is the most important ingredient in this recipe. When selecting a bottle, be sure to pick a sauce that is light to medium gold in color. If the fish sauce is too dark (close to or similar to soy sauce in color, and sometimes with salt crystals formations), it is too old and should be avoided or discarded.
½ cup fish sauce
½ cup sugar
½ cup fresh lime or lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced or minced
1 to 2 fresh red Thai chilies, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced or minced
In a medium bowl, whisk together the fish sauce and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in the lime or lemon juice and add the garlic and chilies. Let steep for 20 minutes or so before serving. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Makes 1½ cups.