Have you ever heard of raw soy sauce crabs?
This Korean national dish, also known as Gejang, is a delicacy that is beloved for its savory and sweet flavors.
The crabs are marinated in a special mix of soy sauce, vegetables, and spices for several days until they become mature and full of umami goodness.
When served with steamed white rice, the combination is said to be so delicious that it’s known as a “rice thief.”
But what exactly does this dish taste like?
In this article, we’ll explore the unique flavors and textures of raw soy sauce crabs and why they’re worth trying at least once in your life.
What Does Raw Soy Sauce Crabs Taste Like?
Raw soy sauce crabs have a complex flavor profile that is both savory and sweet. The soy sauce marinade adds a rich umami taste that complements the natural sweetness of the crab meat. The aroma of the dish is also important, as it should smell like the sea without being too fishy.
The texture of the crab meat is tender and delicate, while the roe adds a touch of creaminess to balance out any spicy elements in the dish. When mixed with steamed white rice, the flavors become even more aromatic and romantic.
It’s worth noting that there are different versions of raw soy sauce crabs, including spicy versions with chili sauce and marination with cooking wine and fruits. Each variation has its own unique sweet and savory flavor enhanced by mild soy sauce.
The History And Origins Of Raw Soy Sauce Crabs
Raw soy sauce crabs, also known as Gejang, originated in Korea and have been a popular dish for centuries. The dish is believed to have been created as a way to preserve fresh crabs, which were abundant in Korea’s coastal regions.
The original version of the dish involved marinating raw crabs in soy sauce, which acted as a preservative and added flavor to the meat. Over time, the dish evolved and different variations emerged, including the spicy version with chili sauce.
Today, Gejang is considered a national dish in Korea and is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. It has even gained popularity in other countries, with some restaurants serving their own versions of the dish.
The key to making a delicious Gejang is using fresh, fat, meaty crabs and marinating them in a special mix of soy sauce with vegetables and spices that has been boiled together and cooled for 2-4 days. This allows the crab to soak up the soy sauce, mature, and become savory and sweet with an umami flavor.
While some non-Koreans may find the dish too salty or fishy, well-marinated Gejang should not be overly salty and should be full of meat with vivid-orange-colored roe. It’s important to use fresh crabs to avoid any unpleasant fishy taste.
The Preparation Process Of Gejang
Making gejang, or raw soy sauce crabs, is a relatively easy process that requires some preparation. To make the marinade, combine soy sauce, water, dried chili pepper, ginger, apple, dried kelp, onion, garlic, and rice syrup in a heavy pot. Cover and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat for 20 minutes until boiling. Then turn down the heat to low and keep boiling the marinade for another hour.
After the marinade has cooled down a little bit, strain it and let it cool down thoroughly. Meanwhile, take the crabs out of the freezer and prepare them for marination. Grab one crab and put it on the cutting board belly up. Remove the apron (the piece folded around under the body) by lifting it and twisting it off. Turn it over and grab the shell with one hand and split it open with your other hand. Remove the gills with a knife or your fingers, and cut off any stringy stuff (eyes & antennae) from the edge of the shell with scissors.
Clean all the crabs this way and keep track of which shell goes with which body. Brush the crabs in cold running water to clean them thoroughly, but be sure not to wash away the tomalley (aka “mustard”). Drain and put each shell back on the body it belongs to so that it looks like a whole crab.
Put the crab into a wide-mouth glass jar or container belly up. Pour the marinade into the jar and press the crabs down with something heavy like a rock so they remain submerged. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
The salt in the soy sauce denatures the protein in the crab, breaking it down and essentially “cooking” the flesh. Freezing the crabs also makes them safe to eat and puts them to sleep so you aren’t dodging claws while breaking them down.
The Flavor Profile Of Raw Soy Sauce Crabs
Raw soy sauce crabs have a distinct flavor profile that is both bold and delicate. The soy sauce marinade provides a rich, salty umami taste that perfectly complements the natural sweetness of the crab meat. The addition of ginger, garlic, and chili pepper in the marinade adds a subtle spicy kick to the dish, while the apple and rice syrup provide a touch of sweetness.
The texture of the crab meat is soft and tender, with a slight chewiness that adds to the overall experience. The tomalley, also known as “mustard,” is a creamy and buttery component that adds depth to the dish. The roe, or crab eggs, adds a pop of briny flavor and a creamy texture that balances out any spiciness from the marinade.
How To Eat Raw Soy Sauce Crabs
Eating raw soy sauce crabs, also known as gejang, is a unique experience that requires some technique. The dish is traditionally served with a bowl of steamed white rice and can be enjoyed in several ways.
One popular way to eat gejang is to suck the soft flesh straight out of the shell. This allows you to savor the natural sweetness of the crab meat and enjoy the full flavor of the soy sauce marinade.
Another way to enjoy gejang is to squeeze the crab meat and roe onto your rice. This allows you to mix the flavors of the crab with the rice, creating a deliciously aromatic and flavorful combination.
For those who like to mix things up, adding a couple of spoonfuls of rice directly into the carapace and mixing it with the crab meat and roe is also a popular option. This creates a unique texture and flavor that is both creamy and savory.
No matter how you choose to eat raw soy sauce crabs, make sure to leave a spoon or two of rice to mix with the roe and tomalley in the top shell. This adds an extra layer of flavor and texture to the dish.
Where To Find Raw Soy Sauce Crabs In Korea And Beyond
If you’re looking to try raw soy sauce crabs, Korea is the best place to start. The dish is a popular specialty cuisine in Korean restaurants and can be found in many seafood markets across the country. One of the most commonly used crab species for making raw soy sauce crabs in Korea is the kkotge or horse crab, which is known for its sweet and tender meat.
If you’re not in Korea, don’t worry, as raw soy sauce crabs can also be found in other parts of the world. In the United States, blue crabs are commonly used to make the dish, especially on the east coast where they are abundant. Many Korean restaurants and seafood markets in the US also offer raw soy sauce crabs on their menus.
If you prefer to make the dish at home, you can find fresh crabs at your local seafood market or grocery store. However, keep in mind that dealing with live crabs can be challenging, so it’s important to handle them carefully and follow proper cleaning and cooking techniques.
Health Benefits Of Eating Raw Soy Sauce Crabs
While raw soy sauce crabs may be a delicious delicacy, it’s important to note that there are potential health risks associated with consuming raw seafood. However, there are also some potential health benefits to eating raw soy sauce crabs.
Firstly, crab meat is a good source of protein, which is essential for building and repairing tissues in the body. Additionally, crab meat is low in fat and calories, making it a good option for those looking to maintain a healthy weight.
Crab meat is also rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, zinc, and selenium. Vitamin B12 is important for the proper functioning of the nervous system and the production of red blood cells. Zinc is essential for immune function and wound healing, while selenium has antioxidant properties that can help protect against cell damage.
However, it’s important to note that these health benefits are only present when crab meat is properly cooked. Consuming raw crab meat can pose a risk of foodborne illness, as it may contain harmful bacteria or parasites. Therefore, it’s recommended to always cook crab meat thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness.