Crabby About Crab
I am a Cancer by western birthsign, arsetrology, whatever you call it, but when the dish of my personal sign's earthly incarnation arrived on our table in Hanoi tonight, my heart sank. Four halves of red crab in black-bean sauce. Yummy, no doubt. But how will anyone ever know? The meat is locked away within the crusty carapace of the crunchy crustacean, requiring Herculean efforts of muscle-power, Ulyssean guiles of subterfuge and cunning to extract - plus a set of metal pincers of our own.
Is there any other meal you have to work so hard for and receive so little in return? Not even a discount voucher for the inevitable laundry bill for your shirt! (No, you don't get bibs in Vietnam.)
Here's E@L delving, delving, delving - fossicking with a chopstick into the cartilagenous confines of the multiple shoulder regions of his hemi-crab for the merest suggestion of a morsel of meat. It's freaking tough to get anything out. It sticks to the bones, it disintegrates into its macroscopic constituent fibres like some mega-filo-virus. It - wait for it - it flocculates!
You can lose weight by eating crab. Just as celery takes more energy to chew (so they say) than you eventually get from having digested it, wrestling with an unpeeled crab is like a vigorous half-hour workout, resulting in the poor tally of a meagre half rice-bowl of stringy pallid meat.
I put some of the black-bean sauce with onions and peppers onto the extracted crab-meat in my bowl and shrug my shoulders at my companions who are still battling their semi-beasts.
"Why doesn't it come from the kitchens like this?" I ask. "What is the chef getting paid for? If I wanted to work this hard for my food I would've become a hunter or a fisherman myself."
They smile, not understanding English all that well. "Anuzzer beer, Mr Phillip?"
OK, the taste and texture (and the sauce) are
fucking awesome nice fucking awesome, but it's just too much freaking effort.
OTHER MONKEYS SAID
Someone I know eats crab like he's eating an apple. He just gnaws off any exposed flesh and then puts down the (virtually untouched) crab claw on his plate.
You done with that? I ask. There's practically enough meat left behind to reanimate the crab if we wanted to.
Yeah, I am.
And that is different to "no sign board" in Geylang or out on East Coast how?
a) not in Singapore
b) black-bean not black-pepper
Apart from that just as messy and as frustrating as any crab anywhere on the planet - excepting soft-shell crab.