Shrimp on Crab Legs (Càng Cua Bọc Tôm)

Yield: 10 servings

IngredientsShrimp on Crab Legs
10 Crab legs or several hard -shell crabs
Shrimp paste, prepared as -for Shrimp on Sugar Cane
1/4 c Vegetable oil
Dipping Sauce
Clove garlic
1/2 Fresh hot red chili pepper -or 2 dried
ts Heaping, granulated sugar
1/8 Fresh lime
2 tb Fish sauce
2 1/2 tb Water, more if necessary

Here we have a party dish that will bring out “oohs” and “ahs” from your guests on sight – and a repeat performance on taste.

Crab claws, alone, are sometimes available in fish stores. If they aren’t, boil several hard shell crabs and use the claws; you can use the bodies in many other dishes.

The crab claws in fish stores are already partially peeled and serve not only as a handle but are edible as well. If you prepare your own claws, peel the upper section around which you mold the shrimp paste.

Boil the crab legs or crabs for about 10 minutes, then drain and cool; remove the claws from the crabs, if using, and reserve the bodies for another purpose.

Have the shrimp paste ready; preheat the oven to 350F.

Pour the oil into a bowl. Dip your fingers into the oil and pick up 2 tablespoons of the shrimp paste. Mold it into an oval around and halfway down the crab claw, covering the part of the claw where it was attached to the body; this will leave a claw tip extended to serve as a handle. Place the claws on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Serve with dipping sauce and watercress.

NOTE: In Vietnam, this dish is always barbecued over charcoal. If you wish to prepare it this way, cook for 10 minutes on each side.

This exciting sauce is almost always served at Vietnamese meals, just a Westerners serve salt and pepper. It’s base is fish sauce (bottled fish sauce). Freshly prepared, it is a constant delight, and so addictive to Western palettes that it will appear with meals other than Vietnamese. To best appreciate the results of its superb blending qualities at the table, use it sparingly at first, gradually adding more until the result is just right for your palate.

Peel the garlic. Split the chili pepper down the center and remove the seeds and membrane. Cut into pieces and put into a mortar, together with the garlic and sugar. Pound into a paste. Squeeze the lime juice into the paste, then with a small knife remove the pulp from the lime section and add it as well. Mash this mixture and add the fish sauce and water.

NOTE: If you find this a trifle strong at first, dilute it with an additional 1/2 tablespoon of water.