Before cooking, you should clean the crabs with a brush. One extra cleaning after the cooking is good too since there might be more mud and some algae stuck in crevices.
The common North Sea crab is a robust crab of a reddish-brown colour, having an oval carapace with a characteristic “pie crust” edge and black tips to the claws. Mature adults might be up to about 25 cm wide and can weigh up to 3 kg (6 lbs). This absolutely proves meatier than mud crabs or flower crabs back in Singapore and is worth the buy if you have a source for them.
Cooking crabs the Swedish way calls for dropping them in storm cooking water, as hot as it could be. Don’t drop in too many at a time, since you want them to go out instantly. We boiled our crabs about ten minutes, parted and peeled them to taste, and then simmered them another ten minutes (or until ready) in the gravy.
I grew up watching and learning the cooking and cleaning of crabs from my mother mostly, with the occasional wet market stall visits that showed the usual Singapore style of parting the shells of the live crab with a swift stab and twist into the carapace, and cutting them across in two, with legs and claws still moving. These Swedish crabs however, have too tough shells to do this and using a knife on them would just be irritating to the crab and painful for yourself, so we chose the time tested Swedish method, by dropping them in boiling water. You should not drop in too many at a time since you want to “storm cook” the crabs, and have the crustaceans suffer as little as possible.
While the crabs are boiling, the ingredients are pounded and then stir-fried till fragrant in a cast iron pot.
The crabs in parts, prior to cooking.
After the second scrubbing, we parted the crabs Singapore style, lifting the shell and then cutting them in two. We used the wooden handle of a large knife to crack the claws and discarded loose shell bits so that they won’t all go into the gravy.
The crabs, in a cast iron pot.
Once the pounded ingredients in the pot was soft and fragrant, we added ketchup, chilli sauce and the crab parts together with some broth. We closed the lid and let cook for another 10 minutes.
Served without gravy. If possible, it’s definitely worthwhile to go for the female crabs, because they are by far meatier and have delicious roe.
I think a Singaporean could conjure up a dozen ways to enjoy this dish, with or without rice, on a banana leaf or in a bowl, with bread or just as is. The best utensil for this dish? Fingers. Well, a slim nifty little fork designed to get at crayfish meat is a perfect complement too.
Served with gravy.
We enjoyed ours mostly with gravy and with a plain crisp French loaf.
Cooking time if you plan to use them for Chill crabs, is about ten minutes. That will lend them slightly undercooked and the final cooking will be with the sauce.
To eat as is, large crabs should cook for 15-20 minutes.