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Nov 12, 2006 08:17 PM

Good old steamed crabs

We are looking for a Saturday lunch place that serves good steamed crab. Since we are going on a Saturday we want to avoid the Wharf and Ferry Plaza if possible. Any suggestions?

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  1. I would guess that most upscale restaurants will have some sort of fresh local crab this Saturday absent bad weather, price battle, or Fish & Game closure due to lack of availability. If there is fresh local crab, Swan will have it. As to whether they are "steamed", don't count on it.

    1. I just saw a sign outside of Woodhouse Fish Company when driving by today about serving crab since it's Dungeness season. I have yet to try the restaurant, so can't comment on the quality.

      1 Reply
      1. re: anna

        I saw this too, the sign said 'Dungeness Madness Crab Feed'. It looks like it's right after the start of crab season so i'm assuming it would be fairly fresh.

      2. The basic Asian ginger-garlic crab preps are steamed, not boiled or fried. At least that's the way my wife does it. The pepper-salt preps are not, or course.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Gary Soup

          Beg to Chinese restaurants they're always stir fried.

          1. re: monku

            Yep, crabs at Chinese restaurants are usually stir fried. You may be able to request them steamed at places that have live crabs.

            1. re: anna

              Er, who would NOT start with a live crab? And I don't think you can truly stir-fry a crab in the shell. You'll stir it to coat it, then add more liquid and cover it to in effect steam it, or simmer it if you will. You may even have parboiled it first. My wife steams it pure and simple and prepares a dipping sauce for those that want more than the sweet pure crab taste.

              1. re: Gary Soup

                The Chinese restaurants doing the ginger/green onion or black bean versions of live crab will chop the crab into pieces, which makes it easier to stir fry. Sure, when there are juices from the crab and some broth, they'll cover the wok to "steam" it a bit, but it's not the traditional steaming with a bamboo steamer. So yes, you can stir-fry a crab. (The restaurant will then reassemble the crab for presentation.)

                1. re: singleguychef

                  Chopping the crab live than cooking it quickly at high heat by stir-frying in the wok captures the intense flavor that's much different from a steamed or par-boiled crab.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    I still don't believe you can safely cook a crab like that unless it is finished by covering and letting it sautee/braise/steam or whatever you want call it for a suitable period of time, and I'd think that steam is necessary to permeate the flesh with additional flavors.

                    1. re: Gary Soup

                      Then we'll have to disagree on that one.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        It is stir fried quickly at a high heat and yes they put a lid on it for a few minutes...that's how they get the shell and the insides of it cooked. I've seen them do it and that's how my mother taught me how to do it.

                        1. re: monku

                          I still wouldn't consider that steamed crab though.

                2. re: Gary Soup

                  My grandmother used to steam the crabs live and whole in a double boiler. You could hear then skittering around for a while. After they were cooked, she chopped them in pieces and sauced them.

                  1. re: Gary Soup

                    There are restaurants that use frozen crab. I've gone to restaurants and the staff has told me that they use frozen crab. That's how some restaurants can offer a whole crab for under $10.

            2. When I said "plain" I meant served within 24 of catch steamed and kept simple. I just like them that way. We have plenty of fru fru dinners in SF. My choice is usually last since we are usually on business. It's one of my quirks. I want to be served one great crab with nice butter, have my Reisling glass full, make a mess and leave.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Stan

                I don't know if you're familiar with Swan Oyster Depot (Polk Street, much easier to park than the Wharf or Ferry Plaza). It's definitely not "fru fru" (if I'm defining it correctly). In fact, it's a hole-in-the-wall (counter stools only), but it's a local institution for moderately-priced, simple, fresh seafood. They specialize in oysters and clam chowder, but they do simple cracked crab (haven't tried them) and I believe the local crab season starts this week. I drink Anchor Steam at this place, but I know they have wine. There will be a line, but it moves relatively quickly. If you want to avoid a long wait, plan for an early or late lunch.

                You'll find tons of information about Swan Oyster Depot if you do a Chowhound or Google search.

                Here's a page with a picture of the inside of SOD and a diner's crab plate:

                Here's a photo of the outside with a line:

                Here's a video of the joint in-action:

                Is that too plain for you? Anyway, thanks for reminding me. I think I'll stop by for some first-of-the-season cracked crab.

                1. re: Stan

                  Any Chinese restaurant that has them live will steam them plain if thats the way what it.

                  You probably aren't going to get one within 24 hours of a catch because the SF area season begins November 15th. Most are probably coming from Alaska and British Columbia this time of year.

                2. I'm a midwesterner soon to visit SF. When is crab season?

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: steveb

                    i think it starts on nov. 15, unless the powers that be decide to push it back.

                    1. re: steveb

                      Geographically Dungeness crab season is all year long. Shipped live to San Francisco.

                      Oregon and Washington season begins Dec. 1st and runs to October and September. Otherwise they can come from Alaska and British Columbia. I live in Los Angeles and they seem to always have them live at the Asian markets.

                      1. re: monku

                        It looks like the crab season is going to be late according to KPIX CBS 5,

                        The fisherman and processor haven't agree yet on the price.

                          1. re: Mul

                            They have now apparently reached a price, so crab season does begin tomorrow.

                          2. re: monku

                            Yeah, if you want a fresh local crab, you have to check its driver's license.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              I've eaten my share in my lifetime, but I don't think I could tell the difference between one of the local crabs and one from up North (unless they were side by side tastings) and I don't think anyone else could. So whats the diff?

                              1. re: monku

                                Probably all the handling, sitting in tanks, etc...