I am a crab killer


I bought these blue crabs at Han Yang Mart.

They went from looking like this, all energetic and frenetic in the paper bag…


To looking like this, all energetic and frenetic in a stainless steel bowl…


To being chopped up like this…


And finally marinated in a gochujang chile sauce, like this.


I can’t tell you how I did it.  It’s too horrible to reveal.

I really wanted to include a recipe for marinated raw blue crabs, or 꽃게장, kkotgejang, in the cookbook.  They can be marinated in chile-spiked soy sauce or in a spicy, vinegary chile sauce.  It’s a classic, very common, very beloved banchan dish in Korea, yet not one that you ever see on Epicurious.

You leave the shell of the crab on, and there’s very little “cleaning” that happens because Koreans love all the crab guts.  The gills, the organs, everything that seems nasty and gross to Americans, Koreans leave intact.  The luckiest person gets the top shell, and the preferred way to eat it is to put in a spoonful or two of rice, mix it up with whatever sauce and organs have collected there, and then eat the rice out of the shell.  To eat the rest of the crab, you don’t pick out the crab meat.  Instead, you pick up your bit of crab, and crushing the shell with your teeth, you suck and squeeze out the meat.  The marinade is so spicy and strong, the taste of the crab meat is subtle, but it’s still real and so delicious.

If you Google “prep live crabs,” you can easily find helpful tips, like “put them in an ice water bath for five minutes to stun them.”  I only wish I’d done some research before getting started.  I was confident that my mom’s way was the best way, which is to cut them up, alive, with a  giant pair of scissors.  She had taught me to cut off the eyes, but it hadn’t occurred to me to ask her, what do you do when the eyes recede into the shell in panic and fear?

The worst was when I managed to cut one of the big pincer claws off of one crab, only to see it escape and scuttle away from me on the table one-clawed.  The only thing that kept me going was the thought that I had to put it out of its misery, and soon.

I found myself chanting, like a mantra, “You eat crab.  You eat crab.  You eat crab.”  If I’m going to eat an animal, I have to be okay with killing it, right?

Please, no angry animal rights comments.  I am truly sorry, and the next time I do this, I will definitely use the ice-stun method.  I’m sure it wouldn’t really comfort animal rights activists, but it comforts me to know the dish turned out pretty well.  At least they didn’t die in vain.

But what should I do?  Is it worth it to include a recipe for this?  Would you try it if I explained it to you?  I’m not sure I can do this again.  Now I know what it’s such a popular banchan to buy pre-made!


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6 Responses to “I am a crab killer”

  1. lina Says:

    oh man…that sounds unpleasant!

  2. annamatic Says:

    My father kills crabs, very unceremoniously, by quickly tearing the shells off. He asserts that the quicker you kill them the better, since pain or illness will make the crab meat taste bad. I don’t think I could ever do this myself — watching him make dinner used to make me cry — but then he would say “If you want to cry, don’t eat” and that would shut me up pretty quickly. I looovvve crab. 🙂

  3. Leslie Says:

    Lina told me about this post and I just read it. It really does sound traumatic! I’m too scared to cut a live lobster in half (after one failed attempt) and this sounds worse. I think this is one recipe I would not volunteer to test!

  4. Ko Says:

    I’d love to get the recipe for this.. I’ve been searching everywhere for a gochujang based recipe for Kaejang and this looks like it might be one. All the others I’ve seen are soy-based ones which I don’t prefer. Any chance you’d be willing to share this? I’ve killed plenty of shellfish in my life so that doesn’t bother me to the least =) Thx!

  5. Grace Says:

    I need to work on the recipe a bit, but I will try to get it to you as soon as possible. It’s definitely not hard, but unlike the soy sauce one, you do have to eat it right away.

  6. superbadkitty Says:

    Hi, I have been told that you put live shellfish into the freezer until they don’t move anymore (they just go into a deep sleep) then remove them and cook or chop them up instantly before they wake up. Have done this with live marron out of the dam and it works fine – no movement after deep-sleep-freeze lol. So no stress for either us or them! It doesn’t kill them so make sure you don’t allow it to thaw too long – as I did this one time and they started crawling around again lol. Very interesting recipe, thanks for sharing.

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