“I bought crabs for dinner!!” I announced as soon as I pushed open our front door last Sunday late afternoon.

“Yeah!” The kids came running. Our whole family loves eating crabs.

“They were on sale: $5.99 a pound.” me.

I count dungeness crab as one of the benefits of living in the Bay Area. We always seem to have an endless supply of these crabs, and they are often on sale at my favorite Chinese grocery store during the Fall season.

Crab Feast

I struggled with the plastic bag and successfully emptied the three good-sized crabs into my sink.

Inside the sink, the three crabs frantically clawed at the sink and at each other causing a minor commotion.

My two children came to watch them, as I prepared a large pot with water at the other side of my double sink.

“Why do you always have to buy them alive?” 10-year-old.

“Because I am Asian. And Asians like to see their seafood alive and kicking before eating them.” me, deploying the excuse of embracing tradition. The more practical reason could be that they don’t sell dead crabs at the Chinese grocery stores, and it makes no sense to buy those frozen dead ones in regular super markets at double the price!

“When I grow up, I won’t be cooking crabs for my kids.” my baby blurted out, while looking on at the miserable crabs, which were slowing their movements in the sink.

“Why?” me. My children love eating crabs. We all do. Many of our happy family meal memories were made around eating crabs. It takes a long time to properly consume crabs, they are difficult food.

“I can’t put a live crab in hot water, and watch it die!” 8-year-old.

I had to pause my crab preparation business, to address the grave matter that my future grand children’s culinary heritage faced extinction.

I dried both of my hands with the kitchen towel. I put both of my hands on my baby’s shoulders, looked the child in the eye, and asked, “Do you still remember the “circle of life” from the Lion King?” (I recently took the kids to the see re-make of the Lion King in 3D).

The child nodded.

Without looking away, I pointed at the sink, and said un-apologetically, “They are crabs. This is what happens to crabs, because they are born that low into our food chain!”

Lion king roared the P.E.T.A. Sentiment away. And we went on to enjoy another memorable happy family dinner.

If you can stomach boiling crustaceans alive, here is my secret recipe.

Preparing crab is actually extremely easy–you just need to know how to boil water. The “secret” part of this recipe is the sauce that I make from scratch, which I consider to be the best part of my crab feast. Everyone that has tried it, has complimented me on it, and no one has ever begged me for melted butter to eat their crab. Not even my kids, who love butter as much as ice cream.


1) Live crabs. (One crab per person, two young kids can share one large crab.)
2) Cilantro
3) Ginger
4) Soy sauce
5) Sugar
6) Vinegar
7) Olive oil

Optional ingredients:

1) Chopped garlic
2) A dash of sesame oil



* Fill a large pot with 2/3 water, and bring it to boil. (I also like to throw in a couple of large slices of ginger in the water)

* Place one crab at a time into the boiling pot of water.
Tip: Use the tongs and put the crab into the water upside down (with the stomach and claws facing up), the crab will go into the water without much struggle this way, and ensure a quick demise.

*Boil the crab at high temperature for 15 minutes. Then remove the crab to a large plate
Tip: You will boil the crab with the cover partially covering the pot most of the time, to keep the boiling water from overflowing outside of the pot.

*Using the same water, repeat the above to boil additional crabs.


*Finely chop the ginger and cilantro.

*Prepare one small bowl of sauce per person.

*Add one teaspoon of chopped ginger and one teaspoon of cilantro into each bowl

*Add 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of sugar

*Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce

*Add 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of dark vinegar

*Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water

*Add 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil

*optional: Add 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic and a dash of sesame oil

*Mix well to be sure to dissolve the sugar.

I rarely use exact measurements in my cooking, so the above measurements are my best guess; feel free to vary the amount of the ingredients according to your own taste.

I like to serve it with bread and butter and my favorite beer–Corona light with a slice of lime.

Crab served with bread and butter, with cold beer

It is also great with Chinese plain buns with condensed milk, and hot sake.

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