Crab with tamarind sauce – Cua rang voi sot (from Rick Steins Far Eastern Odyssey)

Crab with tamarind sauce – Cua rang voi sot (from Rick Steins Far Eastern Odyssey)


30 Minutes








Contains Nuts, Coeliacs

Making this recipe


  • Raw or cooked whole crabs, such as brown crab, mud crab or blue swimmer - 1kg
  • Vegetable oil
  • Seedless tamarind pulp - 1tbsp
  • Chinese rice wine - 2tbsp
  • Garlic, finely chopped - 15g
  • Small medium-hot red chilli, halved lengthways, seeded and finely chopped - 1
  • Palm sugar - 1½ tsp
  • Fish sauce - 1½ tbsp
  • Crushed white pepper - ½ tsp
  • Spring onions, white part only, cut in 2.5cm pieces - 6

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Rick Stein has very kindly allowed us to share this recipe with you from his book Rick Steins Far Eastern Odyssey in which he has mentioned us as a supplier of spices. Rick Steins Far Eastern Odyssey is an ambitious journey, avoiding the beaten track and tourist hot-spots, in search of the authentic food of Southeast Asia. In this accompanying book to the major BBC series, Rick shares his favourite recipes and some well-known classic dishes inspired by the fragrant ingredients and recipes he sampled from local chefs, family-run restaurants, street vendors and market stalls.

Sometimes when we are filming, my endless quest to find exciting food has to be interrupted by the need to make programmes that reflect the quirkiness of where we are. On this occasion we were in a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, where the food was wonderful, particularly this crab and tamarind dish, and the interruption was brought about by an Englishman, Nathan Redfearn, who hires out vintage Italian Vespas and Lambrettas. He explained that skilled Vietnamese mechanics had kept these going for years, making their own spare parts when they could not get originals, and thus that you could find much older scooters and in better condition in Vietnam than you could in Europe. And although I did not mention it on the programme, his wife Ly also happened to be Ho Chi Minh’s great-granddaughter, which gave us all a little frisson.

If using live crabs, turn them on their backs with the eyes facing you. First, drive a thick skewer or a thin-bladed knife between the eyes and into the centre of the crab. Then lift up the tail flap and drive the skewer through the underside.

For both uncooked and cooked crabs, break off the tail flaps and discard. Break off the claws, then take a large-bladed knife and cut them in half at the joint and crack the shells of each piece with a hammer or the back of the knife. Chop the body section of each crab in half, then gently tug on the legs to pull the body pieces away from the back shell. Use a knife as an added lever if you need to, but the body pieces should come away quite easily with the legs still attached. Turn each piece over and pick off the dead man’s fingers (soft gills), then cut in half once more so you have 2 legs attached to each piece. Throw away the back shells or save for stock.

Heat some oil for deep-frying to 190 degrees Celsius. Deep-fry the pieces of crab for 30 seconds, or until the exposed flesh becomes golden. Lift onto a tray lined with kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil.

Put the tamarind pulp, rice wine and 6 tablespoons water into a small bowl and mix together. Strain through a sieve into a bowl and discard the fibres left in the sieve.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saute pan or wok over a medium heat, add the garlic and chilli and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the crab pieces, tamarind mixture, sugar, fish sauce and white pepper. Cover and simmer over a medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until the crab is cooked through. Add the spring onions, cover and cook for another minute. Lift the pieces of crab out of the sauce and arrange on a warmed serving platter. Pour over the tamarind sauce and serve.

Copyright- Rick Stein, recipe extracted from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey.