Sea Ghost Fingers
A Special Appetizer
This classic Vietnamese appetizer makes a starter for 10 people. Recipe adapted from Bach Ngo.
Shrimp on Crab Legs
Cang Cua Boc Tom
10 Crab Legs or several hard-shell Crabs
¼ cup Vegetable Oil
For the Shrimp Paste:
1 pound raw Shrimp, shelled and deveined
4 cloves Garlic
1 teaspoon Rock Sugar, pounded to a powder, or
1 teaspoon regular granulated White Sugar
2 Egg Whites, beaten until slightly frothy
1 tablespoon Roasted Rice Powder
2 tablespoons Pork Fat, boiled 10 minutes and minced finely
Freshly ground Black Pepper
Start by making the Shrimp Paste: Rinse the Shrimp in water and dry thoroughly, blotting well with paper towels. Mash the Garlic in a mortar, then add the Shrimp, a few at a time and mash to a paste. If your mortar isn’t big enough, remove some of the paste to make room for the rest of the Shrimp and work in batches. Or a food processor would do this well.
After all the Shrimp is reduced to a smooth paste, pound the Sugar into the Shrimp. Again, a food processor can be used to do this. Then add the lightly beaten Egg Whites nad pound with the pestle until well blended or pulse a few times in a processor. Grind the whole in a mortar, blender or food processor until you get a smooth paste.Thoroughly mix in the Roasted Rice Powder and Pork Fat, season with Pepper and blend a final time to ensure it is well mixed.
To make the Roasted Rice Powder: Put about 3 tablespoons of Rice in a small dry frying pan that has been heated over high heat. Toast, stirring constantly, until the Rice is brown. Grind in a blender, spice mill or mortar until it becomes a powder.
Boil the Crab legs or Crabs for 10 minutes. Drain and cool. If you are using whole Crabs, remove the claw sections and reserve the bodies for another dish. Peel the upper sections of the claw, around which you mold the Shrimp Paste, leaving hte tips of the claws on for handles.
To finish the dish, heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Dipping your fingers in the Oil, pick up about 2 tablespoons of the Shrimp Paste. MNold it around the exposed meat — not the claw tips — in an oval shape around each claw. Place the claws on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Serve with Nuoc Cham on a bed of watercress.