“WHAT DO you mean it doesn’t translate?!” I remember saying to the TV – complete with hand gestures and a raised voice – when the Indian Chef Maya Kaimal was explaining to THE Martha Stewart that her Spinach Thoren dish doesn’t have an exact equivalent English name. She was talking about the “thoren” part, obviously. She went on to describe what it means, in length, but she lost me the moment the mustard seeds started popping upon hitting the heated oil. I just thought that it sounded like a demigod’s name.
(Don’t get me wrong by the way. I adore Maya Kaimal. She’s a favorite.)
I got reminded of this as I attempt to blog about my recipe for “Sarciadong Alimasag.” The “alimasag” part is easy. It translates to blue crab, or “flower crab,” as it is more popularly known here in Singapore. The “sarciado,” I’m not quite sure of. I consulted Google Translate, expecting that its “Detect Language” functionality would determine the provenance of the word to be Spanish. I hit the button and it turned up to be – “Portugese.” But it shares the same fate as thoren. No direct translation.
“Sarciadong Alimasag” is a dish from my childhood. It is the fattest blue crabs cooked in a sauce made by sautéing finely minced root aromatics garlic and onions with lots of finely chopped fresh tomatoes. The salty savory quality to the dish is achieved by adding soy sauce. For balance – of texture and nutrients, I suppose – string beans are added.
The secret to this dish is using the freshest flower crabs possible. Here in Singapore, I’ve bought these from the lowest end to the highest end of groceries, both ending in much disappointment. The crabs – though female – were bereft of the prized roe and worse, frozen to the point that reduces the meat to a pulp. That is, if you’d be lucky enough to find any meat at all. So I did what any self–respecting culinarian does, get up at the crack of dawn and head to the nearest wet market where wild–caught seafood could be had, fresh from the shores. They may be iced in transit but never frozen.
Today, I may have woken up to the opening strains of Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning,” but I’m blogging right now with The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” on heavy rotation in my head. This batch turned out to be outstanding!
Here’s my recipe, kicked up a notch with the addition of a surprise twist.
Bertolli® Classico “Mild Taste” Olive Oil, a thin film on the pan
Garlic, 12 cloves (or to taste) finely minced
Onions, two medium–sized, finely minced
Tomatoes, four medium–sized, seeded, blanched, peeled, finely chopped
The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue, one heaping tablespoon
Woh Hup® Superior Dark Soy Sauce, three tablespoons (or to taste)
Flower Crabs (Blue Crabs), fresh, wild–caught, 1 kg (SGD 13.00/kg)
String Beans (Long Beans), exactly 20, cut into 3” pieces
- Heat a heavy bottom skillet over low–medium flame. I prefer to use the ones that are really wider than they are taller. Add a thin film of the Bertolli® Classico “Mild Taste” Olive Oil or any vegetable oil. In it, sauté the onions, then turn the heat low. Cover the pan to “sweat” the onions, about five minutes.
- Once the onions have become soft and translucent, add the finely minced garlic. I do so by pressing the garlic right over the pan, using my handy–dandy IKEA® garlic press.
- Once the garlic has (been) cooked through – I do not recommend browning the garlic at all – add the finely chopped tomatoes that had first been seeded, blanched and then peeled. Turn the heat up to allow the tomatoes to breakdown into a sauce.
- After about five minutes, add The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue. Mix it well into the sauce.
- Season with Woh Hup® Superior Dark Soy Sauce. Add one to four tablespoons of water, as needed.
- Once the mixture comes back to the bubble, arrange on it the flower crabs (blue crabs). Put the lid back on.
- My pots and pans have tempered glass lids so I can see exactly what’s going on. But if yours aren’t, check the crabs after being cooked covered for six to 10 minutes.
- When the crabs have turned color completely, add the string beans. Three minutes after the dish has come back to the boil, turn the heat off.
- “Sarciadong Alimasag” is ready to serve! In my case, with heaps of freshly cooked, steaming hot Japanese pearl rice.
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