Dungeness Crab with Black Bean Garlic Sauce

Years ago when I lived in Vancouver my family enjoyed eating dungeness crab often, in fact it was a staple in our home. No it wasn't because my family was rich, although I do wish that was the reason, it was because we had a crab pot placed in a very productive area and we monitored it everyday.

Our freezer was often to the point of bursting due the the crab load it contained and we gave away many to our friends, family and neighbours. In fact our next door neighbours were the recipients of our crab largesse quite often and they in turn rewarded us with tonnes of fresh vegetables from the market garden they owned in Richmond.  It was a great trade. Needless to say our neighbours loved us for it and as a result they never complained when  a party was thrown that could number into the hundreds, well mannered teenage partiers I might add. Acquiescence by crab...

My favourite way to have crab prepared was with a black bean garlic sauce and my Mom and Dad were experts in the preparation of that dish, (had lots of practice). I learned the recipe from them and I do not know where they learned it from, perhaps Bob, but I really don't know. Regardless of it's origin the recipe has seen a lot of service in my home over the last 30 years and it is always a favourite.

Dungeness crab is a very expensive treat, a luxury even, but it is worth every damn penny you pay for it, if you aren't fortunate enough to live on the coast and fish for it yourself that is. Living here in the frozen tundra of Alberta when we buy dungeness crab, or any live seafood for that matter, the fishmonger normally wears a mask and demands all the money in your pockets as part of the purchasing ritual. It was with that knowledge that I will venture to the fish counter at T&T Market and offer myself to the fishmonger in return for a few crabs and he takes full advantage of my vulnerable nature. Days later I will still feel violated... Satiated, but violated...

I had had a craving for dungeness crab in a black bean sauce for quite a spell and finally on New Years Day I decided to face the masked monger once again and get some crabs.  I had to sell myself for a morning downtown to raise the C-Note and while it was debasing and humiliating I did meet some of the nicest people. So armed with the hard earned hundred, it was off to T&T and then with the live crabs secured in my truck it was time to head home and prepare the feast.

Note: Crabs were indeed hurt during the process and it is displayed in a series of graphic photos below. If you are a vegan or a member of PETA you will want to stop reading at this point, you could be scarred...

If you have live crab you will need to dispatch them (euphemism for kill them) and I will detail below how that is done first. Then off to the recipe...

I do not put live crab into the boiling water like so many other cruel heartless crab cookers.  I kill them first and clean them out before cooking. Unlike others I don't like the taste of the innards, quite the contrary, so I stick to eating the meat only (I know some of you reading this will think me a crab eating heretic and guess what I don't care!). So with this in mind I clean them before placing in the boiling water to keep the meat nice and white and I can get more crab in the pot that way too.

Using a long blunt table knife place the knife at the seam between the shell cap and the lower body.

Push the knife to the front of the crab towards the eyes and once inserted fully move the knife tip left and right to speed the dispatch up.

Once the knife is inserted give it a twist to pry up the top shell from the body. Once you have a gap opened up remove the knife and then using your bare hands pull the top shell from the body and discard.

With the top shell removed grab the body and break it in half along the middle. Once in two pieces hold under running water to wash the innards away and clean off all non edible shell, innards, etc.

Once you have cleaned it you should have 2 pieces that have the claws and legs attached to the body. Clean the rest of the crabs and then get ready to cook.

From this point you can either precook the crab in boiling water or cook the uncooked crab in the black bean sauce.  I prefer to cook them in boiling water since it gives consistency to the finished dish and you don't run the risk of serving some undercooked crab or burn the sauce due to having to keep it over the heat until the crab is cooked. It can be argued that some flavour is lost by precooking it, but it works for me and has for years.

In a large pot  add 12 quarts of water, and 1/4 cup kosher salt. Bring to a rolling boil. Once boiling add crab and once water has returned to a boil, cook for 4 minutes. Remove crab from water and set aside.

Now here's the recipe....

Dungeness Crab with Black Bean Garlic Sauce

2 - 2 lb cooked and cleaned (per above) dungeness crab (1/2 per person, but in my house it's 1 per person, so I double the recipe)

2 Tbsp dried preserved black beans

Place the dried black beans in 1 cup of hot water and let soak for 15 minutes.  Drain and rinse then set aside, they're ready to use now.  If you don't have dried black beans use 2 tablespoons prepared black bean sauce and omit the oyster sauce.

2 Tbsp canola or grapeseed oil 
2 Tbsp fresh garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp tapioca starch or corn starch
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 Tbsp sake, rice wine or dry sherry

1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp sugar

Place the water, tapioca starch, sake, oyster sauce, black beans, sesame oil and  sugar in a small bowl, mix well, set aside.

In a large wok or frying pan set over medium high head, add oil and then garlic, saute until lightly brown.

Once garlic is browned add the black bean sauce you have mixed up previously

Bring sauce to a boil and once it has thickened add the precooked crab.

Toss the crab well to fully coat all the pieces and allow to cook for about 2-3 minutes to ensure crab is fully heated.  If sauce gets too thick add a bit of hot water and stir well.

Once crab is hot place on serving platter and serve immediately with steamed rice.


You will want to cover the carpet, chairs, ceiling and walls with sheets, in fact be prepared to call the disaster clean up crew once the meal is completed. Saying it can be a tad messy to eat is like saying the  Titanic incident was just a small dent in the hull. This is full-on get your fingers and every other part of your being sticky kind of meal. Have plenty of wet wipes or wet wash cloths and a fire hose close by. Oh, and wear impact resistant glasses.

When I made this for the kids we covered the dining room in sheets just as I suggest above and the scene of the crab feasting carnage was almost unbelievable to imagine. It was worth the cleaning bills and the cost of repainting the walls to enjoy this with the family and friends. You have been warned.

And if your feeling flush, say, after a lottery win, a successful bank heist or good, old, rich uncle Frederick left you gobs of cash in his will, then use lobster. It is really, really, really good too!