How to Prepare Crab Meat for Sushi

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You can prepare real crab meat for sushi that is moist and tender with a light texture by controlling temperatures throughout the process. Real crab meat is an expensive, high-quality seafood ingredient that isn't used by every sushi restaurant. Many sushi chefs choose to replace real crab meat with precooked imitation crab, called surimi, which is made from a paste of cheap whitefish like hake and pollock. Preparing real crab for sushi involves lightly steaming the meat inside the shell before rapidly chilling it for use in a sushi dish.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 pieces kombu dried seaweed (6-inch strips)
  • 3 cups water
  • Wok
  • Bamboo steam basket
  • Knife
  • Chopstick (optional)
  • Scrub brush or toothbrush
  • Tongs
  • Large bowl
  • 4 cups crushed ice
  • 2 cups water
  • Metal crab cracker
  • Spoon
  • Sushi rice (optional)
  • Wasabi (optional)
  • Soy sauce (optional)
  • Chili paste (optional)
  • Sweet mayonnaise (optional)
  • Add the kombu and water to a wok and heat them over medium-high heat until they almost reach a boil. Lower the heat to a medium simmer and cover the wok with a large bamboo steam basket. Scoop out some of the water if the level is too high and the bamboo is getting wet.

  • Turn the live crab onto its back and insert the tip of a knife or a chopstick into the small opening at the rear of the abdomen. Wiggle the tip around for a few seconds until the crab stops moving. Remove the rubber bands from the claws after you have dispatched the crab.

  • Scrub the outer shell with a brush before separating the legs and claws from the body of the crab at the joints by simply pulling or using a sharp knife. These pieces cook at varying rates and you must steam them separately to avoid overcooking.

  • Place the crab legs into the steamer basket and cover with the lid for two or three minutes. Move the steamed legs to a bowl of crushed ice and water immediately to stop the cooking. Lift the legs out of the ice water bath after 90 seconds of cooling and move them to the refrigerator.

  • Put the claws into the steamer basket and cover with the lid for five to seven minutes. Move the steamed claws to a bowl of crushed ice and water immediately to stop the cooking. Lift the claws out of the ice-water bath after 90 seconds of cooling and move them to the refrigerator.

  • Lower the body into the steamer basket and cover with the lid for eight to 10 minutes. Move the steamed crab body to a bowl of crushed ice and water immediately to stop the cooking. Lift the body out of the ice-water bath after two minutes of cooling and move them to the refrigerator.

  • Open the chilled claws and legs carefully with the back of a knife or a set of metal crab crackers. Be gentle to avoid crushing the meat contained within the shell.

  • Pry the top oval-shaped shell, called the carapace, off the body of the cooked and chilled crab. Remove and discard the white finger-like structures on top, which are the gills. Harvest the brownish-green liver, called the tomalley, from the body along with any usable scraps of crab meat using a spoon.

  • Serve the intact pieces of crab alone as sashimi or simply set on a small mound of sushi rice with a wasabi and soy sauce called nigiri. Mix smaller pieces and scraps from the crab with a little chili paste and sweet mayonnaise to make a spicy crab salad that can be added to a sushi roll. The crab's tomalley is commonly served alone as a treat from the sushi chef to a discerning customer.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some sushi chefs prefer to leave whole pieces of meat inside the opened shell to display in the case and extract the meat as needed.
  • You can also use frozen crab legs, but they tend to lack the delicate texture of crab that has been killed, steamed and chilled in a matter of minutes.
  • Ponzu sauce and other citrus flavors like lemon are often used to complement the bright flavor of real crab.

References

  • Photo Credit one opened snow crab leg image by Mat Hayward from Fotolia.com
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