A seafood-laden favorite at Cantonese restaurants, this family-style dish can easily be replicated at home. The best part of the dish is the crab roe, so be sure you don’t discard it while cleaning out the crab. This recipe forgoes the lotus-leaf liner in lieu of parchment paper, but if lotus leaves are easy to source for you, feel free to use them.
- Rinse glutinous rice until water runs clear, then submerge in water and soak overnight.
- The next day, prepare the steaming apparatus. In a wok or a large stockpot over medium heat, fill with a few inches of water (but make sure the water level will not touch the bottom of the wooden steamer once placed inside).
- Line a medium or large (whatever the crab would fit in) wooden steamer with parchment paper so that the rice will not stick. Strain the rice, then place on top of parchment paper, spreading out evenly, and cover. Place the steamer inside the wok or pot, using a wire rack to prop it up over the water level if needed. Steam for 30 minutes.
- While the rice is steaming, prepare the crab and aromatics. Place the live crab in the freezer 10 to 15 minutes before cooking so that it's easier to handle (and so you won't get pinched!). Under running water, scrub the crab clean and remove dirt with a brush. With the crab on its back, remove the apron by breaking it off with your thumb, or chop it off with a knife, and remove pincers by dislodging from the body.
- Once the apron is removed, there will be a crevice where you can place your thumb inside. Separate the carapace from the body by pulling them apart.
- Once the crab is opened, remove any connective tissue or guts (but save the yellowish crab roe, which will flavor the rice later), and snap off and discard the mouthpiece. Keep the shell intact. Slice the body down the middle, then slice again into two-leg pieces for arranging in the steamer later. Set aside.
- In a hot wok or frying pan, add oil. Once shimmering, add the ginger and garlic. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant but not burnt. Set aside.
- Once the 30 minutes is up, remove the steamer from the wok or pot. The rice will not be fully cooked. Add the ginger, garlic, scallion, and salt to the rice and mix thoroughly. It may be easier to remove the rice from the steamer first, place into a bowl, add the mix-ins, then place back into the parchment-paper-lined steamer.
- Once the rice is back in the steamer with the salt and aromatics, arrange the crab legs and shells on top, and ensure that the cover fits snugly on top. Add more water to the wok or pot if needed, then place steamer back into apparatus, and steam on high for another 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, remove steamer from apparatus. Remove crab legs and shell, scooping out any roe and topping the rice with it. Thoroughly distribute the crab roe around the rice, and add soy sauce to taste.
- To serve, place the crab back into the steamer for presentation, or break down the crab and add the meat to the rice to your liking.
Tatiana Bautista is an assistant editor at TASTE.