What better way to celebrate Chinese New Year? This recipe is from Lung King Heen, a contemporary Cantonese restaurant hidden away in a quiet corner of the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel. In 2009, it became the first Cantonese restaurant in the world to win three Michelin stars. This achievement is down to the dedication of chef Chan Yan Tak, who was lured out of retirement to head this elegant restaurant. His cooking is exquisite and his loyal team is one of the most dedicated I’ve come across. His dim sum are works of art and, unlike at so many other establishments, they’re steamed individually to order. Incredibly self-effacing, he explains this deceptively simple recipe is all about quality ingredients, heat control and timing. I was lucky enough to watch one of his chefs make this deep-fried stuffed crab. He made a Chinese roux by drying the flour and then adding oil. Amazing! The dish itself is not super-difficult but you need very fresh crabs to make it sing.
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion (about 250g), thinly sliced
250g crab meat
2 tbsp plain flour, plus extra for dusting
4-6 small crab shells
2 eggs, beaten with 3 tbsp water
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a wok over medium heat, add the onion and fry until softened but not coloured. Remove to a plate. In the same wok, stir-fry the crab meat over medium heat, adding a drop more oil if necessary, until warmed through. Remove to a plate.
Rinse the wok and return to medium-low heat. Add 2 tbsp of oil and heat until a pinch of flour dropped in begins to bubble, then add the remaining flour and stir over low heat until lightly toasted but not coloured. Add the milk a little at a time, stirring to ensure no lumps form, then return the onion and crab meat to the wok. Mix gently and season with salt and white pepper. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.
When ready to serve, lightly dust the inside of each crab shell with flour.
Fill with crab mixture and dust again with flour. Brush with the egg wash, then pat breadcrumbs on top. Repeat the crumbing with egg wash and breadcrumbs. (This can be done in advance but the second coating of breadcrumbs must be done just before serving.)
Heat oil for deep-frying in a wok or deep saucepan to 170°C and deep-fry the crabs, spooning hot oil over the top, until the breadcrumbs are golden. Serve hot.
Extracted from Hong Kong Food City by Tony Tan (Murdoch Books, approx €23). Photography by Greg Elms.