It’s hard to categorize this crisp Cantonese delight. Stuffed crab claws (釀 蟹 鉗) are a dim sum classic for sure, but is it an Asian dumpling? I’m not quite sure, because for the most part dumplings are doughy, starchy foods. However, in western culinary terms, there are such things as meat dumplings (such as French quenelles) which are poached.
I was at a quandary about including stuffed crab claws in the cookbook. But I’ve loved them since I was a kid and never minded cracking and shelling a bunch of stone crabs for a batch. Don’t worry, I now mostly use frozen crab claws, sold at Chinese markets. They’re pictured below and are smallish, the flesh is about 3/4-inch wide; this size is perfect for this application.
I don’t mean to burst your bubble but stuffed crab claws are not really stuffed. They’re actually a cooked crab claw, cracked to reveal the flesh, is partially encased in shrimp paste, then coated with breadcrumbs and quickly deep-fried. You could describe the result as being drumstick- or lollipop-like but the protruding pincers are reminders of the claws’ crabby nature.
Stuffed Crab Claws
Niàng Xiè Qián / Yeung Hai Kim
釀 蟹 鉗
Makes 12 claws, serving 6 as a snack
12 cooked crab claws, thawed on paper towels (about 1/3 pound net weight)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup panko or regular dried breadcrumbs
1 cup Basic Dim Sum Shrimp Paste
Canola or peanut oil, for deep-frying
Chinese or Colman’s mustard and/or Chile Garlic Sauce (recipe is on Viet World Kitchen site)
Blot excess moisture from the crab claws to ensure that the paste will stick to them. I often leave them out on several layers of paper towel to air dry for an hour or so. Before you’re ready to move on, blot them one more time for good measure. (If they’re super moist still, very lightly dust them with flour right before encasing them in the paste.)
At your work station, have the claws on a plate. Put the flour and panko on small plates or small dishes. Put the egg in a small bowl. Then have the paste nearby and a shallow bowl of water.
To coat each crab claw, wet one hand, then use the free hand to put 4 teaspoons (1 generous tablespoon) of paste in your hand toward your finger tips, spreading it out into circle about 2 inches wide and a good 1/4 inch thick. Put a crab claw atop the paste so that the protruding flesh on the paste but the pincers are not (see photos below). Then close your hand to make the paste adhere to the claw and encase the fleshy portion. Mold the paste around the claw to resemble a large tootsie roll of sorts. Your wet hand should be able to smooth out the paste surface; moisten your hand in the bowl of water, if needed.
Now roll the paste-coated portion in the flour to lightly coat. Then dip into the egg wash, letting excess egg drip back into the bowl; angle the bowl to make dipping easier. Finally, roll in the panko to coat. Set the coated claw on a plate. Repeat with the remaining claws.
thermometer. (If you don’t have a thermometer, stick a dry bamboo chopstick into the oil. If bubbles rise immediately to the surface and surround the chopstick with bubbles, the oil is ready.)Fry the claws in batches of 3 or 4, for 2 to 3 minutes, turning frequently, until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to remove from the oil and drain on paper towel. Serve hot with the mustard and/or chile garlic sauce.Related RecipeIt’s been a shrimpy week and I made Vietnamese grilled shrimp on sugar cane (chao tom). The recipe is posted on Viet World Kitchen.