Thursday, April 17, 2014

Crab and Asparagus Soup (serves 6 as part of a shared meal)

crab and asparagus soup
Crab and asparagus soup is a classic Vietnamese dish.  In Vietnam the word for asparagus is called măng tây which translates to Western bamboo shoots.  I rarely see this soup on a Vietnamese restaurant's menu.  I am not sure the reason, perhaps the crab is too costly (my opinion).  My dear mother gets the Maine crab from the fisherman she knows.  She buys buckets and I mean buckets (5-gallons each) of them and shells them herself.  Fortunately she is very good and quick at picking out the crab meat.   She would wrap the meat tightly in plastic several times and store in a ziploc in her freezer.  When she and my father visit any of their children (now scattered in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island) she would bring many huge coolers (I am not exaggerating) full of her home cooked food, hand-picked crab meat/lobster meat for us, and if it is summer bags of home-grown vegetables and herbs.

Maine crabs are not as well known as the lobsters.  However, it is a secret in our family (maybe not such a secret anymore since I started this blog!).  These crabs contain lots of sweet juicy meat.  My mother would agreed with me that Maine crabs have more meat and are tastier than the Maryland crabs.  The best way to eat crabs is when they are just pulled from the ocean within 24 hours!

Many years ago when I lived in Minnesota working as a Registered Nurse for the Mayo Clinic I was too poor to go out to eat.  There were also no Asian restaurants at the time.  This was the time I started cooking and experimenting with food more.  At the time my good friend, Thảo who was doing her fellowship in gastroenterology was too busy to eat or cook.  Every so often we both would get together, cook and eat.  I remember we made this dish once and that was the first time I had this soup.

Crab and Asparagus Soup (serves 6 as part of a shared meal)

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled, finely chopped
2 lbs asparagus, peeled the base and trimmed the tough parts, cut each stalk into 1-inch pieces
32 oz low sodium, low fat chicken stock (or make your own)
32 oz water
1 duck egg (whisked lightly)
14 oz crab meat (preferably not from a can)
1 Tbsp fish sauce (or to your taste)
2 Tbsps cornstarch mix with 2 Tbsps cold water (thickening agent)
1/3 C chopped scallions
1/4 C chopped cilantro

Method:

1) Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat.
2) Once the pot is hot, add onion.  Saute about 2 minutes until soft.
3) Add asparagus and saute about 5 minutes.
4) Add stock and water.  Once the liquid starts to boil, turn heat down to low and cover the pot for about 15 minutes.
5) Uncover the pot, turn heat back to medium high, once the liquid is hot again, stir the pot in a steady circle and slowly pour the egg in.  This will cause the egg to be more stringy instead of lumpy.
6) Add the crab meat last and gently stir the soup so the crab meat will not break.
7)  Turn off heat, add fish sauce, thickening agent, scallions and cilantro.  Stir a few times to mix everything well.

*If you are serving this dish at another meal or the next day you can garnish a little sliced cilantro and/or scallions on top of the soup to brighten the dish a little.
*If you are interested in a thicker soup then use more cornstarch/water mixture.


with shrimp balls
*If you want to add the cooked shrimp balls to this soup to make it extra special then add about 40 balls (or about 14-oz of shrimp balls) under step 6 (add together with the crab meat).  The shrimp balls came from my mother.  She made them using Maine shrimp.  She kept them frozen in bags and distributed them to my brothers and me.  Even though my brothers and I are somewhat capable of cooking she thinks we don't have time to cook or do not cook enough. She made food for us despite working full-time. Now that she has retired she has been taking classes in college, working towards her own degree in business, and she continues to cook for all of us.

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