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Good old steamed crabs

Stan Nov 12, 2006 08:17 PM

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?

  1. hewn Nov 14, 2006 10:06 PM

    The little market at the bottom of University Avenue just below the freeway - at the head of the Berkeley Marina - serves an absolutely sublime ginger steamed crab. It is fantastic and inexpensive. You do have to take it to go or eat it on the wind-blown picnic tables, though, but that is kind of fun.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hewn
      Leadbelly Nov 15, 2006 12:04 AM

      Ha! "Wind-blown" is apt--that little place is called Seabreeze Market! I had no idea they served ginger steamed crab there, thanks for the tip.

    2. h
      himbeer Nov 14, 2006 05:06 AM

      boiled, don't need butter; some potato chips are a nice counterpoint; riesling a good choice; i believe the term is frou-frou.

      Maritime? old clam house?

      1. s
        steveb Nov 13, 2006 03:32 PM

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

        8 Replies
        1. re: steveb
          artemis Nov 13, 2006 04:08 PM

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

          1. re: steveb
            monku Nov 14, 2006 04:25 AM

            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
              Mul Nov 14, 2006 05:25 AM

              It looks like the crab season is going to be late according to KPIX CBS 5, http://cbs5.com/local/local_story_317...

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

              1. re: Mul
                monku Nov 14, 2006 05:28 AM

                What else is new?

                1. re: Mul
                  JasmineG Nov 14, 2006 09:31 PM

                  They have now apparently reached a price, so crab season does begin tomorrow. http://www.ktvu.com/news/10317515/det...

                2. re: monku
                  Robert Lauriston Nov 14, 2006 03:55 PM

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

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    monku Nov 15, 2006 02:30 AM

                    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
                      yummer Nov 15, 2006 03:38 AM

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

              2. s
                Stan Nov 13, 2006 03:23 AM

                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
                  HungryMojo Nov 13, 2006 01:54 PM

                  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: http://eatbma.blogspot.com/2005/06/swan-oyster-depot-san-francisco.html

                  Here's a photo of the outside with a line: http://www.mistersf.com/new/index.html?newswan02.htm

                  Here's a video of the joint in-action: http://video.google.com/videoplay?doc...

                  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
                    monku Nov 14, 2006 04:31 AM

                    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. Gary Soup Nov 13, 2006 01:41 AM

                    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
                      monku Nov 13, 2006 01:43 AM

                      Beg to differ...in Chinese restaurants they're always stir fried.

                      1. re: monku
                        anna Nov 13, 2006 03:09 AM

                        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
                          Gary Soup Nov 13, 2006 06:52 AM

                          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
                            singleguychef Nov 13, 2006 04:53 PM

                            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
                              Melanie Wong Nov 14, 2006 04:08 AM

                              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
                                Gary Soup Nov 14, 2006 04:44 AM

                                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
                                  Melanie Wong Nov 14, 2006 04:48 AM

                                  Then we'll have to disagree on that one.

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                                    monku Nov 14, 2006 05:24 AM

                                    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
                                      anna Nov 15, 2006 01:50 AM

                                      I still wouldn't consider that steamed crab though.

                            2. re: Gary Soup
                              chocolatetartguy Nov 13, 2006 09:20 PM

                              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
                                anna Nov 14, 2006 04:28 AM

                                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. anna Nov 13, 2006 01:01 AM

                          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
                            Jammy73 Nov 13, 2006 03:57 AM

                            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. o
                            OldTimer Nov 12, 2006 11:23 PM

                            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.

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