"I love the way food puts things in context. A mud crab in mango and tamarind sambal might not sound like an Australian dish, but its ingredients and cultural clues are tied to the history of the Dampier Peninsula. Since the sixteenth century, Macassan sailors visited Australia to trade with Indigenous people, planting mango and tamarind trees along the shore in strategic locations to use as navigational aids. To make this dish I pulled the crab out of the mud myself, and picked the mango and tamarind from the trees around the mangrove, keeping my eyes peeled for crocodiles. What could be more Australian than that?" - Adam Liaw.
1 live mud crab, weighing about 1 kg
1 lime, cut into wedges
3 spring onions, finely shredded
1/2 cup loosely packed coriander
Mango and Tamarind Sambal:
1/4 cup tamarind pulp
8 eschalots, peeled and roughly chopped
5 long red chillies, roughly chopped
2 bird's eye chillies, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, bruised
1 Tbs belacan (shrimp paste)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbs chopped palm sugar
1 Tbs fish sauce, or more to taste
1 large mango, flesh finely chopped
1 tomato, halved, seeds removed, diced
Note: balancing the sweetness of the mango and palm sugar against the sourness of tamarind and lime juice and the savouriness of the belacan and fish sauce is all important in this dish. If your mangoes are especially sweet, you may need to reduce the palm sugar, or add more fish sauce to keep the dish savoury.
To prepare your crab humanely, place it in the freezer or submerge in an ice bath for 30 minutes.
Remove the upper shell of the crab, pick off the gills and discard. Clean the crab under running water and drain. Chop the crab in half with a heavy cleaver. Next, divide each half in half again, leaving two legs on each portion. With the back of the cleaver, gently crack each claw – this makes it easier to extract the meat later on. Set aside.
To make the sambal, soak the tamarind pulp in about 3/4 cup of boiling water for 5 minutes. Strain the pulp by pushing it through a fine sieve with the back of a spoon; discard any seeds, then set the tamarind water aside.
Purée the eschalots, chillies, garlic and belacan in a small food processor. Heat a wok over medium heat and add the oil. Cook the shallot mixture for 10 minutes, until very fragrant, stirring frequently. Add the tamarind water and palm sugar, stir to combine, then bring to the boil.
Add the crab pieces and fish sauce, and stir to coat. Reduce the heat to medium. Cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes, tossing the wok occasionally until the crab is cooked through and the shell is bright red. Add the mango and tomato, toss to combine, then immediately remove from the heat. Taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Transfer the crab and sambal to a platter. Squeeze the lime wedges over the top, garnish with the spring onion and coriander and serve.
Credits: This is an edited extract from Destination Flavour by Adam Liaw published by Hardie Grant Books RRP $50 and is available in stores nationally.