"This is a typical seasonal Shanghainese dish, but blue swimmer crab has a stronger and saltier flavour than hairy crab," he says. David has opted for a translucent sauce, although the dish often has an orange hue if the crab roe is added. Chinese chefs would generally start with a live crab, but pre-packed blue swimmer crab meat is available from many Australian fishmongers.
Since relocating from Shanghai to Melbourne 15 years ago, David Zhang, the restaurateur behind Oriental Tea House and David’s in Prahran, is familiar with the pangs of nostalgia brought forth by the mere mention of hairy crabs. Here, he has reinterpreted his grandmother’s recipe for tofu and crabmeat with Australian blue swimmer crab.
4 large blue swimmer crabs, cleaned, or 250 g frozen crab meat, defrosted, picked through for any shell, chopped
400 g silken tofu, cut into 1.5 cm cubes
3 tsp vegetable oil
4 cm-piece ginger, finely chopped
1 litre chicken stock
2 tsp white sugar
½ tsp white pepper
1 chicken stock cube, crumbled
35 g (⅔ cup) cornflour
2 tsp sesame oil
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 long red chilli, finely chopped
steamed rice, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
If using fresh crab, place crabs in a steamer over a saucepan of boiling water and steam for 5 minutes or until cooked. Remove crab meat from shell (you will need about 250 g).
Place tofu cubes in a bowl of hot water for 30 minutes to warm through; this also prevents the tofu from breaking up. Drain.
Heat vegetable oil in a wok over medium heat. Add ginger and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Increase heat to high, add stock, 2 tsp salt, sugar, pepper and stock cube, and stir gently to combine. Bring to the boil.
Dissolve cornflour in 1 tbsp water, then add to stock mixture with crab and tofu. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or until starting to thicken. Stir in sesame oil. Top with spring onions and chilli, and serve with rice.
As seen in Feast Magazine, Issue 16, pg114.
Photography by Dave Tacon