The last few weeks before Tom left Hong Kong, I felt like I was like cramming for an exam. My topics for review covered all our favourite Chinese food groups. Claypot rice. Wontons. Char siu. Yunnanese noodles. Sichuan. Typhoon shelter crab. Pork chop rice. Dai pai dong. Even Si Fun Fast Food in Hung Hom. With all the eating that needed to be done, I look back now and have a hard time remembering the last time I actually cooked.
Now that Tom is gone, things have settled, and I have some free time to myself. Since he’s rating his “HK Best’s”, I thought I’d echo that sentiment by cooking something that incorporates my favourite HK produce. It’s been a learning curve, but Hong Kong has now become one of my top cities to source ingredients. The variety, quality, and price is really hard to beat.
This week, I needed to make something for a tapas inspired dinner hosted by fellow food blogger, Gary. I was inspired by our trip to Tarifa and tried to think of what dishes we had that might go well with Cantonese ingredients. In other words, Cantonese + Spanish = Cantonish? This wasn’t the easiest to do, but I ended up being reminded of a crab salad that we had at a tiny place called, El Mirlo which overlooked the ocean. At the time it sort of reminded me of a dirty, all American, summer time potato salad -only with imitation crab as the star. But since Hong Kong is crab central, the real thing would be much more appropriate, not to mention tasty.
- 2 live, medium sized crabs (or 1 container of crab meat)
- 4-6 new potatoes
- 3-4 eggs
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 clove of garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup of sliced scallions
- fresh black pepper
I ended up buying two, live crucifix crabs aka, Charybdis feriatus. Apparently these crabs hail from Asian seas which would tick the Cantonese box for this recipe. I’ve had them before, and while they’re not as meaty as the big, blue crabs that you find in places like Underbridge Spicy Crab, they still offer a nice amount of flesh without being too pricey. They were happily chilling in a filtered tank at the market, so I thought that they’d survived a little while longer in my sink at home. I should have read a bit before doing this, as apparently this is the worst thing you can do. Putting them in water actually suffocates them, and a dead crab is a bad crab. To keep their vitals going, it’s best to put them in the fridge under damp paper towels or cloth. My little guys lasted for about 45 minutes, but then when I noticed they’d gone belly up, I quickly chucked them into a steaming pot. After about 5 minutes, I pulled them out and set them on a tray to cool.
Meanwhile, I was going to make a saffron aioli from scratch. I’ve done this countless times after learning how to make it at the Victoria. I put my egg yolks in the processor, turned it on, and dribbled in a pencil lead stream of light olive oil.
What should have happened next, didn’t. Usually, the yolks and oil emulsify and thicken. If you pour the oil in too fast, the mix can split; however, the odd thing was mine never even got going. I added a small amount of vinegar -nothing. I even tried the trick to fix it by starting over with new yolks. Still the same runny mess remained.
Finally after going through a bottle of oil and five yolks, my hands went up. It may have been lazy and wasteful, but Kewpie came to the rescue. I tossed out the old, and mixed the Kewpie with saffron and a bit of grated garlic. I’m not sure why my emulsion never took, but at least all was once again right with the world.
With the crabs, the next step was to pick the meat from the shells. I used one large chef’s knife to knock and crack open the shells and a small paring knife to dig out meat in tight spaces. I would have taken more photos, but my hands were covered in crab juice, and I was more concerned with removing all the tiny bits of shell that kept splintering across the counter.
The rest of this recipe was a no brainer like a standard potato salad. Potatoes boiled for about 10 minutes with the skins on. Once they were tender, but not mushy, I let them cool before removing the skins.
I cubed five potatoes and then mixed everything together with some finely sliced scallions and fresh cracked pepper.