It has been a while since I last posted something on the delectable blue crabs or sea crabs or to be precise the blue swimming crabs of Asia known as “alimasag” in the Philippines. While we usually have them for our Saturday seafood dinner, we always cook them steamed, an easy crab recipe which I have already featured here, so there is no special reason for me to do a re-posting. As suggested by a colleague-friend, this weekend it’s different. Instead of just steaming the blue manna crabs, we agreed to sauté them with ridge gourds and wheat flour noodles.
Since I have already provided some information about the blue swimming crabs in my previous posts where I cooked them, steamed, “ginataan” or cooked in coconut milk, “torta” or fried like frittata and a very similar type of preparation sautéed with “sotanghon” or glass noodles, I will just share some background facts about the other two major components of this tasty dish – the ridge gourd and the “miswa” or wheat flour noodles.
Gourd or “patola” as called in the Philippine language belongs to the tropical and subtropical vines comprising the genus “Luffa”. The fruit of at least two species and typically called “luffa” or “loofah” or “lufah” is grown and harvested while still young and tender (before maturity) and eaten as green vegetable. The type I will use here is called ridge gourd and the other type (among the two species) is the smooth or cylindrical variety.
While it can only be cooked and incorporated into various dishes while still young, gourds are also allowed to ripe and dry when then it can be made into the popular plant sponge called “loofah”. It can be obtained after processing where everything but the network of fibers called xylem is removed. It is then marketed and used as bath and kitchen sponges. Due to its inherent natural properties, it is widely patronized as a hand and body scrub.
The noodles called “miswa” or “misua”, is a very thin variety of salted Chinese wheat flour noodles. It is a lot thinner than rice vermicelli and glass noodles and can be cooked in a much shorter period of time. Apart from China, it is also popular in Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and of course, the Philippines. It is usually added in soup dishes like in my “iyasi” dish. It is also cooked, fried or sautéed and served topped with ingredients such as eggs, shrimps, oysters, crabs, mushrooms, gourd, beef, pork, squash, shallots, and a lot more.
To cook the dish, we purchased 6 pieces medium-sized really fresh “alimasag”. With its inherent good taste, I am always confident when preparing the blue crabs or sand crabs. Much more when we purchased them at the time when they are most fertile or when they produce the eggs and turn the ovaries into an edible and enlarged orange variety. Lucky for us, these decapods crustaceans are harvested during that stage.
To complete the rather few ingredients are some young “patola” or ridge gourds, a handful of wheat flour noodles or “miswa”, several gloves of garlic, some red onions, freshly ground black pepper and seasonings such as “patis” or fish sauce and iodized salt.
The exact measurements are: 4 pieces young “patola” or ridge gourd, peeled and sliced to ½ inch thick, 1 small pack “miswa” (1 coil), 2 tbsp “patis” or fish sauce, 7 gloves garlic, crushed and minced, 2 medium onions, chopped, ½ tsp ground black pepper and about 1 tsp refined salt or to taste. Additionally, we need about 3 tbsp vegetable oil and about 1½ cups shrimp or chicken broth.
As promised, the cooking process is simple. In a “wok” or heavy pan heat the oil on medium setting. When hot but not smoking, add in garlic followed by onions and continue frying. Add in fish sauce and let it sizzles until fragrant. Add in crabs and continue cooking with the lid on.
When the crabs render its flavourful liquid, stir and continue sautéing. Add about half a cup of broth if there seems to be not enough liquid. Cover and continue cooking until the crab turn bright orange. Stir from time to time to ensure even cooking.
Add in about a cup of broth more. Season it with salt and pepper. Add in the sliced ridge gourds and simmer until the veggie is just cooked through. Add in “miswa” noodles and continue cooking with the lid on.
Stir from time to time. Cook for several minutes only as the noodles cook easily and liquid dries rapidly. It should be done when the noodles is done.
Immediately transfer in a wide serving platter. Serve with steamed rice. Worry not if the gourd turn mushy as its flavours will be all over the dish. Yummy! :-)
There is something with the combined flavours of crabs, gourds and “miswa”. Its taste is something unexpected ……… truly delightful and really satisfying. Enjoy!! c“,)