Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cooking from the Web - Rasa Malaysia – Sichuan Crawfish

Crawfish, those glorious little mud-dwellers, are only available for a painfully short time span. So that means it’s up to you and me to eat them as often as possible. By now, you have to wondering where I’m going with this. Will I show you a great crawfish boil recipe I found? Will I show you my own recipe? Actually neither of those is the answer.


A little while ago, I got a copy of David Chang’s “Momofuku” cookbook and like everyone else spent a lot of time ooohing and aaahing over the story and recipes. However, there was one recipe that caught my eye, Sichuan crawfish. What could be better than combining two of the greatest things in the world, Chinese food and crawfish? I was all set to try his recipe until I noticed it called for usukuchi soy sauce, something that’s surprisingly hard to find.



While waiting on the mysterious usukuchi soy sauce to arrive, I did a little searching and found another recipe for Sichuan crawfish. This one from Bee Yinn Low and her site Rasa Malaysia


http://rasamalaysia.com/recipe-sichuan-ma-la/


Right away, I noticed how long her ingredient list was in comparison to Chang’s (12 to 4), but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try them both.



Of course it starts with live crawfish.

Two pounds of live crawfish just itching to get out of that bag.

The good people at the Crawfish Hut supplied me with some quality sized crawfish.



The crawfish went straight from the sack to a cooler full of salt water.

Being a mud-dweller, the average crawfish is quite dirty. You can already tell that the water is starting to turn brown from the purging.


After a good 45 minutes and a few changes of water, the crawfish were given one last rinse and put in a bowl.


A crawfish is not a pleasant looking creature.


With a little help, I soon had Low’s ingredient list ready for cooking.

10 cloves of peeled and lightly pounded garlic, 15 dried chilies, 1 tbs Sichuan peppercorns, 5 slices of fresh ginger, and sauce.

Making up the sauce was 5 sprigs of cilantro, 2 tbs soy sauce, 1 tsp chicken bouillon powder ( I used chicken stock because I didn’t have any bouillon cubes), 1 tbs sugar, ½ tsp sesame oil, and ½ cup of water.


As soon as my wok was hot, 2 tbs of cooking oil went in


Along with the chilies, peppercorns, garlic, and ginger.


The key was to cook until the spices were aromatic…..I love Asian cooking but the vagueness gets a little annoying at times.


Once the kitchen was full of spice, it was time to add the crawfish.

I’ve cooked a number of things, but there’s nothing quite like putting a whole batch of live crawfish in a hot wok. It’s an odd combination of sizzling and clacking.


After 2 minutes of constant stirring, it was time to add the rest of the ingredients.


Everything was then covered and let to steam for 5 or so minutes.


It all looks pretty good.


The crawfish were dished out of the wok and into a waiting bowl.



So what did they taste like? Well, I was little surprised at the lack of spice. Sure there was a little numbness from the Sichuan peppercorns, but nothing that knocked me off my seat. There was a lot going on in this recipe, and I can’t wait to see how it compares to the simplicity of Chang’s recipe. I believe his is roughly 4-5 lbs crawfish, ¼ cup of usukuchi soy sauce, ¼ oil, 2 tbs Sichuan peppercorns, and 30 dried chilies. Maybe his will have the kick that I’m looking for.


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