Among the types of “smelly” spices, fermented bean curd is the one causing much controversy. Some praise, some disregard it. It is so debatable that some people called this type of fermented bean curd “Asian cheese” since it has both the smell and a musty outer layer like many kinds of French cheese. Yet the “excellent cooks” of the kitchen have marvelous ways of using fermented bean curd: to marinate fish, meat, shrimp, squid, and to use in stir-fried dishes, such as bitter gourd with egg and gourd with ground pork. This is made possible thanks to the content of salt available during the fermentation process, and to the effect of stimulating appetite. Using fermented bean curd instead of soy sauce or fish sauce to marinate foods helps enhance and diversify the flavors of the main dishes, stimulate the taste for better appetite, at the same time providing higher nutritional elements and proteins compared to salt or fish sauce. Most importantly is that those who dislike it could seldom recognize the fermented bean curd smell since it has been “lessened” while being marinated in the food. If you are still doubtful, let’s try cooking the aromatic dish Flower Crab in Fermented Bean Curd with the head chef of Tropicana Vung Tau Restaurant.
FLOWER CRAB COOKED IN FERMENTED BEAN CURDPrint This
- 600g flower crab bearing
- reddish-orange roes (2 whole ones)
- 300g betel nut taro
- 40g fermented bean curd
- 500ml fresh coconut water
- 200g water spinach sprigs
- 10g garlic
- 10g shallot
- 415ml cooking oil
- 1 red cayenne pepper
- 5g chili paste
- 5g seasoning powder
- 200ml boiling water
- 400g white rice noodles
Preparation: Soak the flower crabs in iced water till they pass out, then separate the shells and put aside; discard the bib and the lung parts; rinse the crabs and set dry. Peel the betel nut taro, cut into bite-size pieces. Pick off old leaves and aged stems of the water spinach, rinse well then chop into short chunks. Mince finely the garlic and shallot; pound then chunk the red pepper; mash the fermented bean curd finely.
Fry the taro and flower crabs: After preparing, cut the crabs in half or in quarters to favor of the cook; slightly pound the crab pincers. Pour 400ml cooking oil into a pan on oven top, bring to heat then quickly fry the taro till slightly browned, take out and drain off the grease. Continue to put the crabs in and fry on high heat till they are just cooked, take out for dripping off the oil.
Process: Pour 15ml cooking oil into a deep frying pan. When the oil is heated, stir in the garlic, shallot and red pepper until fragrant. Next, add the fermented bean curd and quickly stir, continue to put in the crabs and stir to mix well. Then add 500ml coconut water, bring to a boil, skim off the foam, add the taro and 200ml boiling water; then put in 5g seasoning powder. Cook for 10 minutes for the crab to be done, then take out the crabs and the taro. Keep two pieces of taro in the broth for further cooking until they are tender and soft to create a dense texture. Finally add the chili paste, taste to favor and turn off the oven.
Put the flower crabs and betel nut taro together with the broth into a hot pot, serve on hot stove together with the water spinach and white rice noodles.
Add fermented bean curd to add more flavor.
The cooked flower crabs maintain the natural sweetness with the firm meat. The betel nut taro is tender, nutty, slightly buttery, fragrant of fermented bean curd, and tastes a bit piquant.
Choose the flower crabs with firm flesh, not porous; flower crabs can be replaced by field crabs. Big-root taro has a gummy texture, betel nut taro gives a nutty taste.
EFFECTS OF THIS DISH
This dish is nourishing, useful for people with asthenic body syndrome, weakened immune system, loss of appetite, and those with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes. It helps enhance vitality, cure erectile dysfunction, beriberi, constipation, scanty urine output, bleeding. It protects the skin, and is useful for the elderly’s health and infants’ development.
HOANG MANH DANG Restaurant of Tropicana Beach Resort & Spa (Vung Tau City) Runner-up in the Southern regional semifinal round of the Golden Spoon Awards 2013