Cantonese Ginger Scallion Crab & A Little Chinese Canadian History

This Cantnese ginger scallion crab recipe is inspired by the crab I’d eat at Chinese association banquets with my grandmother every year.

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I like to make this Chinese recipe with wild Dungenness crab from the ocean. I usually get crab with a crab trap dropped with a row boat or fishing boat lately. I also harvest crab by freediving when my equalizing will allow for it. You need an annual tidal fishing license to catch crab in BC.

Cantonese Crab Recipe

Cantonese Ginger Scallion Crab

This Cantonese ginger scallion crab recipe is inspired by the Chinese association banquets I’d go to every year with my Nin Nin (paternal grandmother), where we’d eat crab like this. 

Course Dinner, Main Course, Seafood
Cuisine Cantonese, Chinese
Keyword cantonese, chinese, crab
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 2 for half a crab each
Author Arielle

Ingredients

  • 1 raw crab, cleaned and de-gilled, preferably Dungeness crab
  • 1/4 cup corn starch (1 tbsp separated)
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 2-3 inches ginger root, peeled and sliced
  • 6 scallions, chopped, white and green parts separated
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • salt

Instructions

  1. Separate crab into quarters using your hands or a knife. Hit the legs and claws with the back of a knife to crack the shell a little. 

  2. Dredge crab lightly in cornstarch and shake off excess. Heat oil on medium-high to high heat in pan and pan-fry crab until outside is crispy, and then remove. It is okay if crab is not fully cooked. 

  3. Keep 2 tbsp oil hot and discard excess. Fry aromatic ginger and white parts of scallions in oil until fragrant. Add garlic, crab, Chinese cooking wine and cover, steaming on high heat. 

  4. Mix slurry of cornstarch, 1 tbsp water, soy sauce, sugar and white pepper separately. Uncover crab and add green parts of scallions and slurry, turn down/off heat and allow sauce to thicken. Mix, salt and adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot. 

Recipe Notes

Most Cantonese ginger scallion crab recipes are pretty similar, partially due to the nature of Chinese immigration and settling, and the role of Chinese associations in helping new Chinese immigrants settle in North America. My take on it is similar to Wok of Life’s Scallion Ginger Cantonese crab. If you’ve eaten this style of crab and are familiar with Cantonese cooking techniques, a lot of straightforward guesses can be made about ingredients and method. I hope this helps! 

Cantonese-style ginger scallion crab on white plate on wood background

My family history and this recipe

Eating this Cantonese ginger scallion crab always makes me think of my Nin Nin (paternal grandmother in Toisanese, a Cantonese regional dialect). She used to take me to our family association banquets every year. We’d eat crab cooked like this, served steaming hot in the middle of the lazy susan on the table. Everyone, young and old, would take a saucy section or two and eat it with their hands. Annual banquets were extremely loud and sometimes confusing events for me as a young non-Toisanese, non-Cantonese speaker, but I did know that the food that was delicious. And as I’ve grown older, I understand and appreciate associations much more. Association banquets are an important connection to my family history and grandmother, and a symbol of overcoming adversity in my cultural community.

My family can trace its roots over 100 years in Canada. Actually, according to family lore, one of my ancestors may have been an indentured worker building the CN railroad (unconfirmed, no source verifying at this time). My great-grandfather paid the Chinese Head Tax to come to Canada to find work, as did the previous family members who immigrated here from Guangdong. At least three of my family members have worked in, or operated, Chinese Canadian restaurants between 1920-1960, to my knowledge (likely more, but greater numbers are unconfirmed). I’m not an expert in Chinese Canadian history, though. I can only speak about this topic based on my own experiences, family stories, and based on sources like Chop Suey Nation by Ann Hui and The Search For General Tso (dir. Ian Cheney).

The financial and institutional barriers that limited early Chinese immigrants from coming to Canada was particularly hard for workers’ wives and children to pass through. So, generations would continue to be born in China, and then lone men would be allowed to cross over, with the goal of feeding their families back home and maybe, eventually, hope to bring them to Canada, too.

Associations formed around county, village and family ties were pillars of these early Chinese communities. Members who had settled in Canada helped fellow community members find places in their new home, passing information they needed to survive in this new place, like potential job opportunities and skills, including cooking techniques and recipes.

Why are Chinese restaurant recipes so similar across North America?

Chinese restaurants infamously have the same, or very similar, recipes across North America. Kung pao chicken, moo shu pork, even this ginger scallion crab recipe. It’s obvious that not every early Chinese immigrant who came to Canada was a professional cook or basing their skills on a shared school like Auguste Escoffier’s master sauces. But these people came to work in hundreds of restaurants, making the seemingly same delicious recipes over and over again.

Associations contributed to the dissemination of these shared cooking techniques and recipes. They were formal and informal communication networks and communities. Members of these associations helped share word-of-mouth information with newcomers about how to live in this new nation, including cooking skills and restaurant recipes, and passing on work opportunities across the country.

As far as cooking methods and recipe inspiration, I will say (again!) that I’m just an amateur, late-learner home cook. My take on this is somewhat similar to the Wok of Life’s Ginger Scallion Crab recipe and many others online. If you’re familiar with Cantonese cooking techniques and ingredients, eating this style of crab in restaurants will guide you a long way to inferring your own take on it.

Eat more ginger scallion-style food

Ginger, scallion and garlic are mainstays in Cantonese cooking and a go-to for aromatics. I use a variation of the same techniques and ingredients for cooking ginger scallion spot prawns (recipe) as I do with wild-caught crab.

BC Spot Prawns in Cantonese Ginger Scallion style (recipe link)

Cantonese Ginger Scallion BC Spot Prawns | The Homesteading Huntress

Posted by Arielle

Arielle is a passionate urban homesteader and hunter located in Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.

  1. Thanks for always interesting and original content!

    Reply

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