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.
This dish is made only with the freshest crabs. When I make yangnyeom gejang, I get the liveliest crabs in Chinatown in the morning, then freeze them for an hour or so for easier handling when I get home.
I used plum extract (ë§¤ì‹¤ì•¡; mae sil aek) instead, often sold in Korean grocery stores. It's great to keep one at home when you need just a bit of natural sweetness in savory dishes
12 Blue Crabs
1/4 cup [amazon_link id="B0002YB3XC" target="_blank" ]Soy Sauce[/amazon_link]
Seasoning Sauce: Mix well the soy sauce, gochugaru (ê³ ì¶”ê°€ë£¨; Korean red chili powder), grated onion, garlic, grated ginger, scallions, rice wine, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and pepper. Set aside to allow all the ingredients to come together.
Clean the crabs. Here is a link to a step-by-step picture guide. Take the crabs out of the freezer, put them back in cold water and scrub each crab thoroughly with an old toothbrush or a kitchen scrub. Remove the apron from the body. Rinse again in cold water. Pull out the body from the shell. I don't wash off tomalley and roe at the end of cleaning as the guide shows. Decide for yourself if toxicity in tomalley is concerning enough for you.
Optional) Cut off the legs with scissors and freeze the legs in a separate plastic bag. The yield I get from legs for spicy crab is so minimal, I usually save them to make crab stock later.
Gently mix the crab pieces in seasoning. Put them in a container and refrigerate overnight. Consume the crabs within a day or two.