Try this scrumptious crab dish in a spicy, creamy coconut sauce with long beans and calabasa. Ginataang Alimasag recipe is so easy to prepare yet packs big flavors. Best-enjoyed kamayan-style!
Ginataang Alimasag is a Filipino seafood dish where blue crabs are steamed and simmered in spiced coconut milk with string beans and squash. The crabs soak up the rich coconut sauce flavor, making them even more mouthwatering.
Alimasag and alimango can be used interchangeably in recipes, but they’re actually two different crab species. Alimango are large crabs with large, fat claws and smooth, evenly-colored shells. They’re also known as mud or black crab and live in freshwater. Alimasag, on the other hand, has thin claws or legs and a thorny, usually spotted shell (but not always). They live in saltwater and are also called blue or white sea crabs.
The crabs we used in the photos are alimango as they were the only ones we could find in the wet markets the day the pictures were shot. In the video below are alimasag.
- Crabs– you can use alimasag, alimango, or even king crabs if available
- Aromatics –onion, garlic, and ginger add depth of flavor
- Coconut milk and coconut cream – Freshly squeezed coconut milk delivers the best flavor. However, canned variety is more convenient and easily accessible.
- Thai chili peppers– for milder heat, substitute finger chilis (siling haba)
- Fish sauce- lends a savory and umami flavor to the dish. You can also use shrimp paste.
- Vegetables– sitaw (long beans) and calabasa (winter squash) add flavor, texture, and nutrients to the dish and extend the servings. You can also use other vegetables such as eggplant, pechay, or spinach.
- Salt and pepper– enhances flavor and add zing
How to choose the best crabs
To know if a crab has a good amount of crab roe or fat, press the pointy sides of the crab. If it feels hollow, then there is no crab fat. The crab is meaty when the abdominal or triangular plate is firm to the touch.
- You can cut the crabs in halves to extend servings and make them easier to eat.
- If you don’t have a steamer, boil the crabs instead. Place them upside-down in the boiling water and depending on size, cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until they begin to float and change color. Drain well.
- Slice the vegetables in uniform sizes for even cooking.
- Do not allow the coconut milk to boil, as it will cause it to separate and curdle.
How to Serve
- Enjoy this ginataang alimasag for lunch or dinner with loads of steamed rice!
- Forget the forks and spoons, and get ready to get your hands dirty. This seafood dish is best-enjoyed kamayan-style! Have crab crackers handy to easily break those tough shells and get to the succulent flesh.
How to Store
- Do not leave it at room temperature for an extended period to ensure food safety. It contains coconut milk and spoils quickly outside refrigeration, particularly in warmer weather.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container and keep them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Reheat in the microwave at 2 to 3-minute intervals until completely heated through.
- 6 blue crabs
- water for steaming
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 thumb-size ginger, peeled and julienned
- 4 Thai chili peppers
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 4 cups coconut milk
- 1 small calabasa, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
- 1 bunch long beans
- 1 cup coconut cream
- salt and pepper to taste
Under cold running water, wash crabs well. Scrub shells with a kitchen brush to rid of dirt and grime.
In a steamer basket, arrange crabs belly side down and sprinkle with salt to taste. Place steamer basket in a pot filled with water. Over medium heat, steam crabs for about 20 to 25 minutes or until color changes to orange. Remove from heat.
In a wide pan or skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add onions, garlic, and ginger. Cook until softened.
Add fish sauce and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes.
Add coconut milk and simmer until reduced.
Add calabasa and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes or until half-cooked.
Add sitaw and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add steamed crabs.
Add coconut cream and chili peppers. Stir to combine.
Continue to cook, regularly spooning sauce over crabs, for about 8 to 10 minutes or until sauce is thickened and vegetables are tender.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.