Stir-fried Crab with Ginger and Scallion (Cua Xao Hanh Gung) is a popular dish at seafood restaurants in Vietnam. The dish is well-loved for its aromatic and flavorful profile. You can easily make this restaurant-quality dish at home and impress everyone.
Cua xào hành gừng involves stir-frying crabs (still in their shells) with a mix of ginger, scallions, and seasonings. The combination of ginger and scallion provides a fresh and zesty flavor that complements the sweetness of the crab. This combination goes really well with seafood, as you may also see in these steamed fish and steam squid with ginger and scallion recipes.
If you love crab meat and don’t mind getting your hands dirty when eating, this dish will be a treat. You may come across it at seafood restaurants and upscale Cantonese restaurants in Vietnam.
This recipe may sound fancy, but it has a very short list of ingredients. Here are what you will need:
- whole crabs
- scallion and ginger
- oyster sauce, light soy sauce, and Shaoxing wine (I like Pagoda brand)
Types of Crabs to Use
Fresh whole crab is the best choice for this recipe. Live crabs cooked immediately after preparation will give you the best flavor and texture. You can use various types of crabs depending on availability, and here are some options:
- Mud crabs: Popular in Southeast Asian cooking, mud crabs have a strong flavor and a good amount of meat. This is the type of crabs we often use in our Vietnamese recipes, such as stir-fried glass noodle and crab meat.
- Dungeness crabs: Dungeness crabs are known for their sweet, tender meat and large claws. They also work well in this stir-fried crab recipe due to their meaty claws and body.
- Blue crabs: These are called “ghẹ” in Vietnamese, and the flavor is often milder than mud crab and Dungeness crab. You can use them in this recipe; however, I find the taste less delicious than using mud crabs.
In case the idea of cooking live crabs seems too intimidating, you can try this recipe with lobster instead.
The trickiest part of this recipe is in its preparation steps, which involve handling live crabs. You will need sharp kitchen shears or knife, a small brush or toothbrush, and a mallet.
1️⃣ Humanely immobilize the crabs: Before you begin cleaning, it’s recommended to humanely immobilize the crabs. This can be done by placing them in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes to make them dormant and easier to handle.
2️⃣ Clean the crabs: Rinse the crab under cold running water to remove any dirt or debris from the shell. You can use a brush to clean the shell more thoroughly.
Then flip the crab over, lift and pull off the flap/apron. Also, grab the carapace and pull it away from the body. With the carapace off, remove and discard the gills and the mouthparts. You can give the crab another rinse.
3️⃣ Cut the crabs: Use sharp kitchen shears to cut the body into halves or quarters, depending on the size of the crabs. Then use a mallet to crack the claws and legs. This will help the flavors penetrate the meat better as well as make it easier to eat. If you can eat the yellow gooey “crab butter” inside, scrape into a bowl and set aside.
Though the cleaning and preparing steps can be a bit messy and tricky, the cooking steps are pretty quick and straightforward. One thing to keep in mind is crab cooks quickly and can become dry and flavorless if overcooked. Once the meat turns opaque, it’s done.
1️⃣ First, dip the flesh side of the crab halves or quarters into cornstarch. Heat a generous amount of oil in a wok or frying pan and briefly fry the crab pieces for a few minutes until lightly golden.
2️⃣ Heat the wok or a large skillet over medium heat. I use a large stainless steel All-clad sauté pan here. Then sauté ginger slices and the white parts of scallion until fragrant.
3️⃣ Add the crab pieces to the skillet. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes, then you can add Shaoxing wine, seasonings, and the “crab butter”. Stir and continue to cook until the crab is cooked through and the flavors are combined.
Finally, stir in the green parts of the scallion. The crab stir-fry is now ready!
How to Serve
I recommend having strong crab crackers when eating cua xao hanh gung to crack open the shells. Prepare to get your hands dirty, and your fingers may have some lingering smell even after washing with soap. We usually rub our fingers with lime or lemon wedges to help get rid of the smell.
You can serve this stir-fried crab with ginger and scallion as is. We sometimes have some bread slices on the side to soak up the sauces. This dish may be slightly time-consuming to eat, but I hope you will give it a try. We love having it on Friday nights or for special occasions, such as New Year celebration.
More recipes with crab meat you may like to try:
⭐️ I’d love to hear what you think about the dish, so please feel free to leave a comment and a rating if you have tried it. New recipes are added every week so let’s connect on Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates. You can find my collection of Vietnamese recipes here.
Stir-fried Crab with Ginger and Scallion
- Place crabs in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes to make them dormant and easier to handle. Then rinse them under cold running water to remove any dirt. You can use a brush to clean the shell more thoroughly.
- Flip the crab over, lift and pull off the flap/apron. Also, grab the carapace and pull it away from the body. With the carapace off, remove and discard the gills and the mouthparts. Give the crab another rinse.
- Cut the scallions into 2-inch long pieces (about 5cm), and keep the white and green parts separated. Thinly slice the ginger.
- Place a frying pan over medium heat and heat a generous amount of cooking oil. Dip the flesh side of the crab halves of quarters into cornstarch. Shake off excess starch, and then fry the crab pieces for about 3 minutes or until the side coated with cornstarch is lightly golden. Transfer to a plate.
- Place a large skillet over medium heat and add just enough cooking oil to lightly coat the bottom. Add ginger slice, stir and cook briefly until fragrant. Then add the white parts of scallion, also stir and cook briefly until fragrant.
- Add the crab pieces to the skillet. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes, then pour Shaoxing wine over the crabs. Give it a quick stir, then continue to add light soy sauce, oyster sauce, water and the "crab butter".
- Stir well and let the sauce come to a simmer. Cook for another 4-5 minutes or until the crab pieces are fully cooked, stirring a few times. Adjust the heat as needed. Avoid overcooking as the crab meat may become dry and tasteless. Also adjust the amount of liquid and seasonings to your likings.
- Add the green parts of the scallions. Give everything another thorough stir, then transfer to serving plates. Serve right away.