Kulinarya’s theme for the month of July is GUINATAAN/GINATAAN (Coconut Milk/Cream based dishes).
The Coconut Tree plays a very important role in Philippine cuisine, there are many uses from its roots to the leaves, that’s why it is rightly called the “Tree of Life”. Coconut Trees are very abundant in the Philippines and because it’s readily available, different regions boasts Guinataan/Ginataan specialties, from sweet to savoury…you have to be amazed on the variety on offer.
Traditionally, obtaining fresh coconut milk/cream, one have to ride a small stool with a circular metal with serrated edges attached securely on the front of the stool (situated near your crotch area), and by gripping half of a coconut nut, you firmly shred the coconut meat by rubbing the inside against the serrated edges of the metal contraption, taking care that you don’t include the dark bitter lining. By squeezing the fresh shredded coconut (from 1 matured nut) with about 1 cup of warm water you will get the coconut cream. Adding another batch of warm water to the squeezed out shredded coconut and squeezing it again, the end result will be coconut milk. If you can not find fresh coconut, of course good canned varieties are an easy alternative.
What a coincidence that Mr. H was craving for some Ginataang Alimasag (Sand Crabs Cooked in Coconut Milk), this week. I think the cold weather at the moment here in Brisbane is well suited for this comfort dish. One thing I have to warn you about eating this dish with rice is…..it gets pretty ugly! You have to eat it by hand, no cutlery please! You can use your teeth to crack the shells open or if you want to save your teeth from some expensive dentist bill, you can use a handheld metal nutcracker. The rich gooey sauce is to die for, slather it on your hot rice and go for it!
GINATAANG ALIMASAG (Sand Crabs in Coconut Milk)
3 medium uncooked sand crabs (approx. 1kg)
2 big cloves garlic, crushed
1 thumb size peeled ginger, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 pumpkin (deseeded/peeled/cubed)
150g string beans, cut slanted into 2 parts each
3x small cans coconut milk (165ml each) or 1 large can
1 1/2 tbspn fish sauce (patis)
pinch of pepper
*used AUS Measuring Cups & Spoons
PREPARING THE CRABS:
~ Rinse the crabs in cold water, snap of the claws from the body. Take out the triangle bottom parts on the underside of the crabs. Using a metal nutcracker, slightly crack the claws and thick limbs.
~ Using your knife, cut the crab on its underside with the thickest part of your knife facing the mouth of the crab, use firm pressure. Once the knife is halfway, use the palm of your hand to slowly tap the top of the knife to cleanly cut the top shell.
~ Make sure you divide the crabs dead centre, don’t rinse the crab pieces. Pile all the crab parts in a large container and set aside.
~ Heat oil, sauté garlic, ginger, onion and cook till onion slices are translucent. Add crab pieces and stir till well combined. Cook till the crabs are slightly turning red in colour.
~ Pour in coconut milk and pepper, bring to boil, lower heat and let it simmer, add fish sauce. Carefully stir the crabs for even cooking. Once the crabs turns bright orangey red, they are cooked. Remove the crabs from the broth and set aside.
~ Add the pumpkin pieces and string beans and let it all simmer till the pumpkin pieces are cooked through but not too soft. Simmer for approximately 10-15 minutes, uncovered.
~ Combine the cooked crab pieces and let it simmer for another 3-5 minutes. Stir carefully to distribute the sauce evenly to the crab pieces. Carefully place the crab pieces first to your serving plate/bowl and pour over the sauce and vegetable pieces.
BEST WITH: freshly cooked steamed rice.
- Snake beans (Sitaw) is traditionally used instead of the string beans. Chinese Water Spinach (Kangkong) can also be use when it’s in season.
- For extra bite, add 1-2 deseeded and chopped bird eye chillies (siling labuyo) in Step 5.
- Don’t overcook your vegetables as it will turn into mush.
- Licking the shells of the crabs is a normal behaviour when you’re inside the confinement of your house, as well as eating with your hands. I have warned you, this meal is a pretty messy affair but sooo worth it!
- Please feel free to check out my other recipes, for a Guinataan/Ginataan dessert, Glutinous Rice Dumplings in Coconut Milk (Ginataang Bilo-Bilo) and for another Seafood Ginataan recipe, Prawns in Coconut Milk (Ginataang Hipon).