Many Koreans call yangnyeom gejang a ‘meal thief’ (밥도둑; bap do duk), a dish so delicious that the accompanying bowl of rice is gone in no time. Admittedly, it is quite messy to eat – I wouldn’t recommend this for a first date – as you’ll soon have the red sauce covering your lips and fingers. Yet, you won’t be able to stop reaching for another crab piece and licking off any remaining sauce from your fingers.
The original version is the simple ‘gejang’ or ‘ganjang gejang,’ literally crab (게; ge) in soy sauce (간장; gan jang). Cleaned fresh crabs are immersed in boiled then cooled soy sauce for 3-5 days, with the same soy sauce strained, boiled, cooled and poured back a couple of times to deeply flavor the crabs along the way. Although it sounds all too salty, when it’s done right, these ganjang gejang (간장 게장) crabs come out with deep oceany, briny bites.
I usually resort to a faster, spicier version, which is utterly delicious and addictive – seasoned (양념; yang nyeom) or spicy (매운; mae un) gejang. Besides, it’s easy to make this dish – only two steps! Clean the crabs. Mix in spicy sauce.
…although these are really the two big steps, it takes quite a lot of effort, from shopping for fresh, live blue crabs to cleaning the crabs in one-go. For me, it’s still worthwhile, even with the time requirement and my mild allergic reaction to shellfish. Yes, I like this a lot.
It is also a great time to have blue crabs now, in season for the female roes (vs. for plump crab meat in autumn). As a person who grew up in a fish roe-loving country, spring is a better season for blue crabs.
ge 게 crab
gae 개 dog