Crabs have always been a favourite food of the people of the world!
Sibu people are no different! And in fact in the past it was quite easy to get one's own crabs from the banks of the Mighty Rajang in the evenings.
Crabs were always a dish for the table whenever there was something to celebrate especially in the 60's. It was common to stir fry crabs with just thick soy sauce and eggs.When Rajang Park was started many families would go to the two open air restaurants there to enjoy a Saturday night of open air eating. Crabs would always be one of the dishes ordered. The crabs shells would be strewn all over the place and dogs would come by to sniff at them. I sort of remember that whenver we went to the open air market in the morning the smell from the rubbish bins would be horrendous. Restaurant mess was absolutely challenging.
Later on as cooks became more versatile they started cooking crabs in fancy ways like with butter and milk and fermented soy beans for example. Today Sibu has probably as many styles of cooking crabs as there are restaurants. Tastes keep on changing actually.
I often think about what the world is doing regarding crabs. Will global warming remove the delectable crab from our table?
And as everyone is thinking of a Christmas wish list mine would be to have a book about crabs on the list. It is not that I love eating crabs. It is because crabs remain the most challenging food to cook well in my opinion. It is hard to get at the flesh and there is just so much work involved before we sit down to eat it.
I will always associate crabs with this story: a father went out to the Sibu market to buy crabs to win his children's hearts. It was very sad that at the table he was told that his children were allergic to crabs. And as he sat eating the crabs he realised that he had never been part of the family and he did not know his children. He had forgotten so much about his children! It could be too late for him to win over his children who watched him eat his solitary meal.
Here are some interesting points about crabs:
Singapore's Chili Crab - well known favourite
Baked Mud Crab - a Sarawakian favourite
May be the tastiest crab in the world
The biggest crab in the world in 2008
The Blue Crab - unique and pricey (ONLY FOR THE VERY PRIVILEGED)
According to the Encyclopedia Americana [1995 edition] there are approximately 4,500 different species of crabs living on Earth. They are distributed throughout the world. It is probably impossible to tell for sure who (much less where!) ate the first crabs. Food historians tell us crabs were known to ancient Greeks and Romans.
"Renaissance...Lobster, crayfish and crab were greatly enjoyed, though they seldom reach the inland eater. At formal meals they presented difficulties. 'Crab is a slut to carve and a wrawde wight [perverse creature]. By the the the carver in a noble household had finished picking the meat out of ever claw with a knife-point, had piled it all into the 'broadshell', and had added vinegar and mixed spices, the tepid crab had to be sent back again to the kitchen to be reheated before he could offer it to his lord. Crab and lobster were also boiled and eaten cold with vinegar, as were shrimps."---ibid (p. 43-4)
Who are eating the best crabs in the world? Those who hold political power and own vast financial empires.
Those lowly ones like ourselves might just enjoy a family day out and catch some crabs in Bekenu! The best crabs are shared crab meals.