Lemon Pepper and Tamarind Crab

Lemon Pepper and Tamarind Crab

Tis the season for some crabs! At $2.99 per lb, you can bet I’ll be eating crabs until my heart and tummy are content.  One of my favorite Vietnamese dishes is Crab with Tamarind Sauce or Cua Rang Me. It’s crabs deep fried, then stir-fried with a sweet tamarind sauce. It’s a sweet, sour and savory dish that is sure to delight anyone who loves crab as much as I do.


  • 1 whole crab
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 3 garlic cloves; minced
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 3 drops of sesame seed oil
  • 1 jalapeno or Thai chili pepper (optional)
  • 1 small yellow or white onion; cut into thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons minced cilantro or green onions
  • Vegetable oil for frying

When dealing with any kind of seafood, always get the ones that are still alive and kicking. Fresh seafood does not have the fishy smell and the meat is firm.


  1. Spare the poor crab by killing it quickly. To effectively kill a crab, pierce it with a sharp knife in the middle of its underside.
  2. Take a brush and start scrubbing the crab down. Don’t forget the hairs on its claws. They are particularly dirty.
  3. Flip the crab over to reveal the triangular flap on its underside. Discard flap.
  4. Remove the top hard shell from the rest of its body. If you have a hard time pulling off the shell, gather up the claws on one side of the body and use them as leverage to pull the shell apart. When pulling apart the shell, make sure not to lose any of the crab tomalley (yellowish green liquid-y substance) that is found inside cavity of the shell. Even though it looks repulsive, that is pure flavor, my friend.
  5. Using a spoon, scrap the tomalley from the shell and into a bowl. Set aside.
  6. On the other half of the crab that contains the legs, discard the spongy membranes at the center.
  7. Hack up the rest of the crab into manageable sizes.
  8. Put all the crabs pieces, including shell, in a bowl and lightly coat with tapioca starch.
  9. In a large pot, deep fry all the crab pieces until they float to the top (1-2 minutes)
  10. In a wok or pan, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil on medium high.
  11. Add garlic and stir until fragrant and lightly brown.
  12. Add the crab tomalley. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.
  13. Add water, fish sauce, tamarind powder, sugar, salt, pepper, sesame seed oil and chili pepper/jalapeno (optional). Stir until combined.
  14. Add onions and saute for 1 minute.
  15. Add deep-fried crab.Toss until combined with mixture.
  16. Top with cilantro.