Typhoon Shelter Chili Crab

 

Preparation info

  • Makes

    4

    Servings
    • Difficulty

      Complex

Appears in

Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking

By Eileen Yin-Fei Lo

Published 2009

  • About

For most of a century, the waterfront of Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay was a floating neighborhood of Chinese junks, sampans, and tenders that serviced the merchant ships in the territory’s harbor. This curving, protected bay was also a perfect place of refuge during the typhoon season and came to be known formally as Bei Fung Tong, or Typhoon Shelter. Gradually, it also became home to a small fleet of floating restaurants, to which diners were ferried for the particular dishes of these boat people, such as salted pork with chive flowers and a special congee of pork innards. The best-known dish of this floating enclave, however, was chili crab, cooked on the small kerosene stoves of the boats.

Over the years, as the harbor began to be reclaimed and filled in, the international freighters started to anchor outside of the harbor proper, and the moorings of the boating marina multiplied, the boat people were forced to move out, and the Typhoon Shelter ceased to exist as a residential neighborhood. But its cooking remained. Many people left their boats for the shore and opened small restaurants close to the waterfront, where they prepared, and still do, their traditional foods. Quite a few serve chili crabs, cooking giant, big-clawed crustaceans imported from Vietnam. The closest we have to these crabs in the United States are the Dungeness of the West Coast, and they are quite good indeed. Here is how to make your own Typhoon Shelter chili crab as it is made in Hong Kong.