Now that it’s the Lenten season, many Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays as a form of abstinence. However, eating fish instead can sometimes be an indulgence, considering how succulent fresh seafood can be.
Here’s a seafood recipe that may not count as abstinence or sacrifice. In fact it has twice the richness because the crab fat is further enhanced by bottled crab fat paste (taba ng talangka).
The crab fat mixes with the crab fat paste and the tangy calamansi juice to make a rich, piquant sauce that’s perfect for mixing with hot rice. Oh, the sinfulness of it. But at least it helps you fulfill the obligatory abstinence from meat.
Still, you can have a form of sacrifice by eating only a little of the dish. Since this is delicious, that would indeed be a form of abstinence.
Lenten Crabs with Talangka Sauce
2 live mud crabs, medium to large size (alimango)
4-6 cups water, for simmering the crabs
1/3 c fresh calamansi juice
1/3 c bottled crab fat paste (taba ng talangka, see tips)
¼ c cooking oil
1 whole garlic bulb, peeled and chopped
1½ c water
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large pot, arrange the live crabs and pour in the water for simmering. Bring water to a simmer. Let simmer just until the crabs stop moving. They should still be a bit raw. If the crabs had been tied with a string, cut off the string. Cut the crabs in half, then pry out the fat inside the crabs. Mix the crab fat with the calamansi juice and the crab fat paste. Set aside.
Heat the cooking oil in a large wok and sauté the garlic. Add the halved crabs and sauté until the crab shells start to turn a bright red-orange. Immediately add the crab fat mixture and pour in the water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue simmering until the crabs are fully cooked, around one to two minutes more.
Serve hot with rice. The sauce makes a tasty “gravy” for the rice. This dish is good for four if being served as part of Lenten abstinence (only one-half crab for each person). Otherwise it makes a hearty meal for two.
When buying crabs, ask for the female crabs which have more fat. Be sure they’re still alive and cook them immediately (dead crabs may smell bad even before you can start cooking them).
Crab fat paste, or taba ng talangka, is sold in bottles and is available in supermarkets or specialty shops. For best results, use one of good quality (with no extenders).
This dish must be served hot. Otherwise, it won’t taste as good.