Five Spice Dungeness Crabs

It’s been so crazy with work lately that I haven’t had much time to do any cooking.  I’ve been asked to hurry up and post more recipes so I’m going to rock this return with some crustacean!  Here’s a recipe I created on the fly so my measurements may be a little off.  It’s all ‘to taste’ anyway so if you’ve got a rich palate, then you’re good to go.  This crab dish infuses more Asian flavors using five spices, ginger, garlic, and fish sauce.

The worst part of it all was preparing the crabs… yikes!  I don’t know about you but the thought of killing these guys and ripping them apart while their separated claws are still twitching in your hands just freak me out.  So, who do you call??  The Matador!  For you folks who don’t have a Matador to call on, here are some instructions:

Some recipes will call for crabs which have been “livebacked”, that is, cleaned while still alive. Livebacked crabs are used for charcoal grilling, stir-frying, or as an addition to soups and stews.
First, place the crab on its back and hold it in place with a large cleaver or french knife positioned on the center-line of the crab between the two sets of legs.  Strike the cleaver a sharp blow with a rubber mallet or similar tool; chopping the crab in half and killing it instantly.

Pull off the triangular shaped apron from the underside of the crab. Turn the two halves of the crab over and pull off the top shell. Now the gills (clear feathery fingers situated just above the legs), the intestine (a firm white crooked piece in the center of the back), and the beaklike mouth parts are exposed.

Remove and discard these parts. Reserve any yellow fat known as crab butter from inside the shell, it makes a wonderful enrichment for a dipping sauce.  Rinse the two cleaned halves of crab. Slice each half of the crab into 5 sections by cutting through the body between each leg.  Now you have 10 legs with a body section connected to each piece. Crack each section of each leg with a mallet or the handle of a heavy knife.


  • 4 live crabs
  • 3 tbsp of five spices
  • 2 tbsp of fish sauce
  • 2 tsp of brown sugar
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced (for seasoning)
  • 10 cloves of garlic, sliced (for frying)
  • Crab butter from inside the shell
  • 1 tsp of kosher salt
  • ½ tsp of black pepper
  • 3 tbsp of flour
  • 3 tbps of julienned young ginger
  • 3 tbsp of vegetable oil

Preparation Instructions:

Clean and prepare the crabs as mentioned above.  Clean and scrub two shells for plating at the end and cook them in a pan or in the oven until they turn orange and set them aside.  In a small bowl, combine five spices with brown sugar, minced garlic, crab butter, and fish sauce and mix well.  In a heated wok, add oil, garlic, and ginger and fry for about a minute.  In a mixing bowl, add crab and dust with flour until all pieces are slightly coated/dusted.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper to the crab on top of the flour.  Add crab to wok and fry evenly for about 5 minutes until the flour gets a nice golden color.  Add seasoning mixture to the crab and stir well until every piece is coated and continue to fry for another 10-15 minutes until cooked.  Transfer to serving platter and place the two shells on top for presentation.