How to Clean Crab

dungeness crabs

Dungeness crab is absolutely one of our favorite seafood delicacies. When I used to live in Seattle during dungeness crab season (typically November through December) dinner composed simply of crab and a lot of newspapers. Our favorite method of cooking crab is to steam/bake them in a big pot or wok with very little water. We sometimes throw in some ginger slices for the aroma and dip the meat into a kosher salt fresh cracked pepper and lemon dip.

This post is just to show how we clean and break down the crab since we used dungeness crab meat for some of our recent dishes, sup mang cua (asparagus and crab soup) and bun rieu (crab noodle soup) as well as canh bun (these posts coming up soon!) We won’t discuss the claw or legs since those are pretty self explanatory, but the body of the crab contains the sweetest meat but can sometimes be hard to get. You don’t have to have any special tools or skills of a neurosurgeon..so here’s how I do it!

dungeness crabs

 

First, flip the crab over to work on the under surface of the crab. I first remove the apron which contains the crabs intestine and hides it’s gonopods (for those interested about the birds and the bees). Then I place my thumb right at the apron attachment site and place my other fingers on the carapace (shell) for support. With my other hand, i place my index finger and thumb in the opening for the two adjacent legs on each side and then firmly lift up.

 

dungeness crabs

It looks like something out of the movie Aliens but, you will now have separated the body from the shell. In the shell will be some yellowy orange mush–sometimes called crab butter–or gat in Vietnamese. This is the crab’s liver and pancreas..so if you enjoy the rich taste of liver, you’ll enjoy this..it’s buttery and rich! We like to save it to add to bun rieu (crab noodle soup).

Now clean off the gills–the rubbery ribbons on both side of the body.

dungeness crabs 

Now I hold the body with both hands placing my thumbs in between the two halves of the body–and crack it in half. You will see that within each body are small chambers filled with succulent and sweet crab meat.

dungeness crabs

Then with each hemi-body, I split it in half one more time, cross-wise. Now you’ll have much easier access to that delicious white meat inside those chambers. 

How do you clean and break down crab?

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