Fresh Crab and Noodles in a Pot

Kani Nabé

In Hokkaido, the northernmost island of the Japanese archipelago, this one-pot meal is a midwinter treat. The same bubbling-pot preparation can become a showcase for American Dungeness crabs caught along the Pacific Northwest coast or for our blue crabs from the Eastern Shore. Since fresh enokidaké mushrooms are being cultivated in California now, and shiméjitaké mushrooms are being grown in Virginia, this Japanese classic can be transplanted into American homes!

Ingredients

  • 2-4 whole fresh crabs, about pounds in all
  • 12-20 square inches dashi kombu (kelp for stock making) 2 cups cold water
  • 1 tablespoon saké (Japanese rice wine)
  • pinch salt
  • 4-5 scallions, white and green parts
  • ¼ pound (about ¼ head) hakusai (Chinese cabbage)
  • 4-5 ounces dried harusamé (cellophane noodles)
  • 3-4 ounces enokidaké (slender creamy white) or shiméjitaké (clusters of small pale brown) mushrooms
  • 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ lemon, cut into 4 wedges

Method

  1. With a sharp heavy-duty cleaver, cut each crab in half through the belly (this kills them immediately), then cut off the legs. Using the tip of your knife, slit each leg (to facilitate eating later on).
  2. In a small pot, combine the kelp and the water, and bring rapidly to a boil. Then remove the kelp and season the broth with the rice wine and salt. Blanch the crab pieces in the seasoned broth for 2 minutes, or until the shells turn a vivid red. Remove the crabs to a platter, and skim the froth from the poaching liquid. Set the broth aside.
  3. Trim the tops and bottoms from the scallions, then cut them into 2-inch lengths. Stack these bundles of scallions on the platter with the blanched crab pieces.
  4. Cut the cabbage into 1½-inch lengths, and stack these near the crab on the same platter.
  5. Soak the noodles in warm water for 10-15 minutes; drain, and place them on the platter too.
  6. Trim away the bottom of the slender white mushrooms, or if you are using the pale brown ones, trim away any moldy material clinging to the stems before breaking the larger clusters into smaller ones. Add these to the platter of ingredients.
  7. Bring the platter of ingredients to the table if you have a portable cooking unit, and make the bubbling pot there. If not, prepare it in the kitchen and then bring it to the table. Either way, begin by simmering the blanched crabs and noodles in the broth for 2-3 minutes. Then add the cabbage, and adjust the seasoning with the soy sauce. Cover the pot and let it simmer for 2—3 minutes. Add the scallions and mushrooms, and simmer another minute or 2. Serve piping hot, with lemon wedges on the side.

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