Tamarind BBQ Crabs



Really, I should title this recipe: The Reason I Married My Husband, but that’s a bit of a mouth full. The first time I had BBQ crab, was just a few months after Bryan and I started dating  and were in New York for a City Grit dinner. I may have terrified the people sitting at my table as I inhaled crab after crab leaving a lovely mess of tamarind sauce dripping down my hands and smeared all over my face. The wonderful people of New York weren’t quite ready to watch this Texas girl crack and eat crab. Thank God my behavior didn’t scare Bryan because I knew from that first bite; we were soulmates. A man that could cook one of my favorite foods that well was definitely not going to get away easily.

Bryan grew up going to his family bay house in Matagorda Bay where they would set crab traps and BBQ the crabs often with family friends including Louie and Frank Crapitto. It was a technique that they had picked up from the local Vietnamese fishing community. After years of experimenting with different flavors and spices and perfecting his technique, Bryan developed the amazing recipe below… which we serve during summertime at Reef, our gulf coast infulenced restaurant.

Without further ado, I give you the best crab recipe you’ll ever eat. Seriously y’all, don’t wait to try this, we’re right in the middle of blue crab season… go getcha some. Just remember to be careful who you serve them to, you never know who might fall in love with you over sticky sweet crab legs.


Tamarind BBQ Crab



2 dozen gulf blue crabs
1/2 c cajun spice
1 c grapeseed oil
2 bunches of green onions, trimmed


Place crabs in ice water for 10 minutes until they are limp. Pop the top shell off the crab and clean out the guts and gills under running cold water. Then, remove reproductive organs and break the crab in half with 1 claw on each half. This will expose the fleshy meat in the middle. Repeat with the remaining crabs. Keep on ice until needed.


The Mop


½ c onion, minced
½ lb Bacon, chopped
½ c celery
2 jalapeños
½ c bell pepper
4 tbl BBQ rub
½ c sliced garlic
2 tsp coriander
¼ c ginger minced
2 tbl fish sauce (we use Red Boat)
1 thai chili, minced
2 tbl olive oil
1 bunch thyme, tied with twine
¼ c cider vinegar
3 tbl dark brown sugar
1 c bourbon
2 oranges, juiced and zested
1 bottle white wine
4 limes, juiced and zest
4 tbl soy sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
6 c chicken stock
¼ c cane syrup
1 cup tamarind water
2 tbl Worcestershire
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp w. pepper
1 tsp blk pepper
1 tbl sesame oil
¼ lb butter


Render the bacon until it is almost crispy and add the butter, let the butter melt.  Next add onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, ginger, chilies, herbs and BBQ rub.  Sauté everything together until brown.  Then, add in the brown sugar and caramelize. Deglaze the pan with bourbon and add the bottle of white wine. Reduce. Once the sauce is reduced by 1/2 add the remaining ingredients except the juice and zest. Reduce again until  ¼ of the sauce remains. Remove the bunched thyme and blend in a mixer. Finish the sauce by adding the zest and juice. Strain. Be sure to cool down the sauce before using.


The Vinaigrette


1 cup fish sauce
1 1/4 c lime juice
1/4 c palm sugar
1/4 c ginger, minced
1/4 c garlic, minced
1 thai chili
1/2 c grapeseed oil


Combine all the ingredients together and set aside.


Place the halved crabs and green onions on a hot grill until they begin to char. Be sure to baste and turn the crabs frequently for about 10-15 minutes until they are fully cooked. The tamarind mop will become sticky sweet. Then take the cooked crabs and toss in a large bowl with some of the vinaigrette, green onions and chiffonade of mint and cilantro until well coated. Serve hot.


Here are a few photos of Bryan BBQing crabs last weekend at the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival. We had an amazing time and got to meet a lot of great people and once word spread about the crabs, we couldn’t get them out quick enough!





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