I enjoy eating crabs but not the tedious task of cracking and picking the meat off its shell.
The only time I recall doing the cumbersome process was when my niece Maureen and her husband Louie Ferrer brought home gigantic mud crabs from Surigao. Because the crabs were so sweet and meaty, I could not get enough of them.
Which was why I was so thrilled when I came across a tin of Pier 717 blue swimming crab meat (alimasag) during a work session with baker and businessman Johnlu Koa.
I was very pleased with the quality—whole chunks of white lump crab meat that was firm on the outside yet soft on the inside. Flavor-wise, it was delicate, fresh and clean.
Pier 717 comes in eight variants. I like the Colossal (as the variant is called) crab meat, taken from the two largest muscles connected to a crab’s back/swimming legs. These swimming crabs must be big, each piece of meat weighing a minimum of 9 grams. A 1-pound can has meat from 40 crabs.
The Colossal was a satisfying mouthful. I enjoyed it straight from the can, with a squeeze of lemon or dressed in a little mayonnaise, lemon juice, a bit of fresh tarragon, drizzled with olive oil. I added a pinch of salt, pepper and sugar—all on half an avocado.
The other variant I fancied was the Cocktail Fingers—the first section of the crab claws, peeled with a bit of remaining shell.
From sea to can
The manufacturer, RGE Agridev Corporation, sources its blue swimming crabs from all over the Philippines. The crabs are caught wild and bought from accredited suppliers. Only hard-shell, live crabs of the same species are chosen to maintain the meat’s quality.
Fishermen in bancas drop cages using chickens as bait in the morning and proceed to the buying stations with their catch, where these are sorted for size.
Immediately after, the crabs are steamed, handpicked (to segregate the shells from the meat) and classified according to body parts—Colossal, Jumbo, Super, Back-fin, Special and Claw.
The meats are smelled and checked for texture before being brought to the main processing plant in Cebu where they are X-rayed for foreign objects.
After this come the pasteurization, laboratory analysis and canning.
RGE does not add extenders, artificial flavoring and preservatives; thus the need for the product to be chilled.
Only crabs with a carapace that measures at least 4 inches are harvested. The smaller ones are brought back to the sea while those with eggs are brought to RGE’s nursery.
The hatchlings are cared for until they grow their claws (without which the crabs will not survive in the wild) and are released back to the sea.
The company primarily exports to the United States and now sells its products at Rustan’s Supermarket under the labels Milagros Bay and Pier 717.
Tel. 6370001 to 04.
Robert G. Eduardo, the man behind RGE Agridev, is also a restaurateur. With partners Nick Camcam and JunJun de Ocampo, he conceptualized Blackwood, a New York-inspired
Chef JunJun described their cuisine as “global comfort food.” He said no flavor enhancers are used. Careful preparation is emphasized.
When I visited the restaurant, I fell in love with three dishes. The puff pastry pizza (rolled thin, with mushroom cooked in truffle cream) was delicious.
The Blackwood Reuben Sandwich comes in two formats: Hungry, with 150 g of meat, and Very Hungry, 250 g of meat.
I had the Very Hungry: slices of well-done corned beef stacked high, one on top of the other, with cheese and sauerkraut, slathered with thousand island dressing, on good bread with horseradish on the side. There were no pretenses to this sandwich, it simply hit the spot!
The Grilled Burger topped with Barbecued Pulled Pork was not just flavorful but a textural marvel. Sandwiched between the custom-made super soft bun was a smokey grilled chunky ground 200-g beef patty, which complemented the tender, moist, slow-cooked barbecued pulled pork. Crisp onion rings topped the burger, lending it a sweet crispness.
Another must-try is the creamy, smooth-as-silk cheesecake.
Blackwood is at The Hub, Greenfield District, Ortigas, Mandaluyong City; tel. 5705601
RGE’s Crab Cake recipe
1 can Pier 717 crab meat
2 large eggs
4 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ c breadcrumbs
Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and breadcrumbs. Mix.
Add the crab meat and mix well.
Shape into cakes/patties.
Pan-fry in a little oil or put crab cakes on a grease-lined baking tray and broil in the oven for 10 minutes or until slightly golden.
Serve with lemon wedges.
Tip: I serve these crab cakes on a bed of mixed salad greens with fresh mangoes (cut into cubes), thinly sliced onions, tossed in wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.