My Citizens! Thanks to the dual magic of time and Z-Pack, I am finally just about over My 18 days of unfounded misery – My tubercular cough is a distant memory, My sore throat is almost gone – but My ears are still a mess (turns out My left eardrum has a pinpoint hemorrhage where it…exploded!). My hearing should be back to normal in a few weeks according to My physician – in the meantime, the Hetman of Herbology has created a riff on the classic Chinese dish of crab with rose wine using Chinese medicine as My guide!
Given that I have experienced an explosive outburst of Yang (heat) due to My illness, I decided to counterbalance the deficient Yin in My system through that most chill-inducing food – crab! By way of example: according to Chinese medicinal theory, crab meat is a food replete with ‘cold’ energy, and ‘cold’ energy is Yin. When a person intakes a great amount of Yin food, their Yin-Yang balance will be affected. The Chinese have traditional preventive advice on crab eating, since crabs were always consider a delicacy in China.
This advice was articulated quite effectively in the 18th Century novel ‘The Dream of the Red Chamber’, where one chapter describes the family – in Autumn – having a crab-eating party. Just like what would happen at any good literati party – people composed poems for the occasion while the Chinese elderly women at the party wrapped themselves in heavy blankets as they ate. This was done, not because it was cold outside, but because the crabs would induce a serious chill (at least according to Traditional Chinese Medicine – TCM).
The following are two lines from a poem composed by a young lady named Xue Baochai in ‘The Dream of the Red Chamber’:
《红楼梦》薛宝钗“讽蟹”诗： 酒未敌腥还用菊，性防积冷定需薑。”Wine alone not enough to offset the odor, Chrysanthemum is then added. To prevent coldness to accumulate, One must need ginger.”
Note that the second line emphasizes that ginger is a necessity to accompany crab eating in order to prevent coldness to accumulate in one’s system. Ginger is a food loaded with hot Yang energy – therefore, it can offset the coldness caused by crab. The Chinese also suggest drinking warm rice wine when eating crab, since warm rice wine is also carrying ‘hot’ energy which can offset the excessive Yin caused by crab. Trivia point – Chinese prostitutes refused to eat crabs because they believed it is what they would reincarnate into!
Meanwhile, it is also interesting that though the Chinese always love crab, they do not consider eating a lot of crab meat a good idea. There was a Ming dynasty literati named Zhang Dai (1597-1679) who was a famous gourmand. In the tenth lunar month, Zhang Dai would offer crab parties with an interesting rule – each party participant could eat no more than six crabs.
The crabs in Zhang Dai’s parties were the Chinese freshwater mitten crabs. The mitten crabs are rather small. Each weighs three to four ounces, about the size of blue crab from the East Coast. The reason there was a six-crab rule was based on the concern that crab was a ‘cold’ food and one should not eat too much of it. This rule still holds true amongst many traditionally-minded Chinese to this very day!
Li Yu, a literati in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, noted: “Crab is fresh and fat, sweet and greasy, white like jade and yellow like gold, the three colors and fragrances have been created to the extreme, and there is nothing that can be used.” In previous years, crabs were not so homely, and a crab feast would be too expensive for ordinary people to eat. The crab meat was taken out or made by itself or with other ingredients into various crab noodle dishes, crab noodle tofu, crab stuffed orange, etc. Now – we can all indulge!
The herbs I have selected to add medicinal potency to this recipe are all mild, and should not cause anyone any degree of issue with their health. That said – if you prefer to err on the side of caution, please feel free to omit these herbs (though I do find they add a truly delicious – and healthful! – flavor profile to the final dish). You can of course add your own herbal mix if you are so inclined – it doesn’t have to be Chinese in origin, but it should be complementary to crab as a flavor. Think fennel, mint, and others in the Western canon!
FYI – a cold, as explained by a Chinese medical doctor, is caused by ‘cold wind’ that invades the body and weakens the person’s Yang. Ginger, which is a type of food with ‘hot’ energy, falls into the category of Yang food. Therefore, ginger can increase and strengthen weakened Yang, and help cure the patient. It also means that combining this ginger tea with the medicinal herbs used in cooking the crabs (along with the potent rose wine!) will make a powerful ‘1-2 punch’ to knock out excess Yin in this recipe – and from My body!
Following the principles of TCM – know that ginger tea is a very common treatment for a cold in China. At the beginning stage of being sick, one may have symptoms such as headache, fatigue, and fever. One should cut a few slices of ginger which should be added to 2 cups of water (a little bit of brown sugar may be added as well). Boil the water with ginger and brown sugar for ten minutes. Drink while it is warm and the patient should lie down in bed with an extra blanket and sleep, expecting to have a thorough sweat.
I have taken a unique riff on this Yang theme, by including the wildly-powerful Chinese rose wine (more like vodka!) infused with rose petals and sugar in addition to the classic Shaoxing rice wine in My Drunken Crab recipe. I also added in a strong ginger tea to be mixed with some of the crab poaching liquid to make a potent Yang sipping broth. The Chinese herbs can – if you must – be left out of the poach, but they add a major flavor and health benefit to this delicious recipe – and any Chinese herbal store should stock them!
For the curious, I’ve included the pinyin (Chinese characters) for the herbs in the recipe if you want to show them to your local TCM herbalist – Amazon may stock some of these as well, so it’s worth checking there if you’re curious. The herbs are ALWAYS best purchased from a local Chinese herbalist with high turnover in their inventory. The crabs should always be alive and the freshest at your local market – small blue crabs on the East Coast and big Dungeness crabs on the West Coast are My choices here in the United States.
Chinese rose wine can be purchased from here, while the best Chinese brown sugar and aged Chinese black vinegar of top-quality may be found at their respective links. I’ve also tweaked the classic crab dipping sauce with a hint of garlic, chili and a decent hit of miso for umami. Every aspect of this dish – from the dipping sauce to how you cook the crabs to the ingredients themselves – have all been hand-picked by me to complement the flavor of the crab and to best balance out the Yin and Yang elements of the recipe.
My Citizens – drunken crab is a truly classic dish, with some TCM enhancements that should help anyone who is ill to recover as quickly as they can (assuming their symptoms are determined to be best addressed by a Chinese Doctor with this type of food cure). Even if you AREN’T ill – I have every confidence this dish will find great favor with you and your diners alike! Drunken crab is one of the best ways I know to enjoy this crustacean – and nobody does a better drunken crab than TFD for His loyal Citizenry!
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?