Dungeness crab PDX
So, we just moved to Portland from the blue crab nirvana that is Baltimore, MD. While there are many foodie pluses inherent in that trade-off, I am not yet convinced that trading blue crab hardshells for these new-fangled Dungeness crabs is one of them. Where should I go in Portland to try and dispel my doubts? Open to suggestions for both places to eat 'em and places to get 'em to cook (although then I would need advice on what to do with 'em - since I'm not entirely sure steaming 'em in beer and Old Bay is the way to go). thanks so much!
i grew up in baltimore but have lived in the pac nw for 25 years (both portland and seattle) and while i love dungeness i still believe it doesn't come anywhere near blue crab. native northwesterners will argue until they're blue in the face for dungeness as i will for...um blue. but i've made my peace (virtually every other factor of living in this region is superior so it's ultimately a small price to pay. particularly if you pony up to get blue shipped on rare occassion.)
the trick i think is to play to the stregths of dungeness in how you eat it. dungeness has a comparatively clean, bright flavor so it can't stand up to the very strong flavors in old bay as well as blue. i crack them and just eat them with drawn garlic butter and lemon. it's true the yield is pleasingly bountiful next to blue and when you cut your fingers on the carapace you dont immediately get the stinging old bay in there.
at the good chinese seafood restaurants here in seattle they serve whole dungeness in black bean sauce and szechuan sauce and some other ginger and scallion sauce. those work very well. they pull live dungeness out of the tank and cook them to order. i presume some of the chinese seafood restaraunts in portland must do that too. anyone?
i stay away from the classic northwest fancy restaurant dungeness crabcake with panko breading and some aioli or asian dipping sauce. again they just swamp the flavor of the crab. i think though that that era might be past thankfully. it used to be ubiquitous.
also, if you get a chance to try some fresh (never frozen) alaskan king crab it can be extremely sweet and wonderful. the shells are incredibly tough but when you get in there the flavor is a revelation (like dungeness but better i think) again i eat it with just butter and lemon. if it's been flash frozen on the boat at all it's not as good or worth it.
i'll pine for blue crab forever, but it's a wintry thing, a 'you can't go home again' thing. it's never like it was, is it?
Jill O references the PDX places for Chinese style crab. All of these places serve crab, but not all have their own tanks. Here's where you can get Chinese style crab in PDX.
This list is off the top of my head, but there are more than these that serve crab. All, except Golden Horse, are in the SE82nd and Powell or Division area. I wonder if Golden Horse will die along with the rest of Old Town.
Golden Horse (Old Town)
Malay Satay Hut
Ocean City, Wong's King, and OM have decent ambiance as well.
Styles? Here are a few to consider
Ginger/scallion - the preferred choice as it complements the sweet crab meat
Black Bean - garlicky and pungent
Salt/pepper - salty with a kick of hot pepper, onions and garlic
Curry - stir fried in a light curry sauce
Other styles you might find: XO sauce, Sampan style, steamed, black pepper
The single, common thread? They are all messy (in a good way) and tasty.
With Chinese New Year coming up, it will be a good opportunity to eat crab.
Also check the thread on Chinese restaurants along SE 82nd.
thanks guys! we'll try the Chinese version at one of these places this weekend!
My parents visited last week from b'more and we steamed fresh crabs we bought at ABC.
ericlutzker, I completely agree - they were yummy, but only when we concentrated on realizing they were a completely different dish than blue crabs. We just did 'em straight up with drawn butter and some local wine. we completely underestimated how much meat we would get from each so had lots of leftovers, which we picked. Tried making crabcakes, like I always do with left over blue crabs - not successful at all. made some sushi rolls with the rest - much better.
still gotta say I prefer the blue, though
Welcome! Looks like solid advice replied already. On the coast, places in Lincoln City are selling whole cooked Dungeness for $2.99/lb., now that the season is underway. You can't beat going after your own. I love Al's, in Netarts. Big Spruce RV Park is the business name. Al Prante will rent you traps or rings, plus the boat, and even drop the boat in the bay and start the motor before you hop in and take off. He sells licenses, too (hint: go after 1/1/10, and it's good all year...). My wife and I publish a little free arts/entertainment/outdoors pub on the beach; here's her recent piece on the new crab season. http://www.oregoncoasttoday.com/2009crabseason.html
Here's another about the folks who opt to stay dry and crab from the pier at Newport.
Nothing wrong with Old Bay and beer, pg, nothing at all. I love blue crab from back east (I'm from NYC originally) but I have to say, there's a whole lot more crab and whole lot less picking on a Dungeness! Just because you moved here, doesn't mean you should leave the Old Bay behind! ;o)
Don't know where you are in PDX, but you will probably find better prices on crab at the smaller Asian seafood markets on SE Powell like ABC or Om, than in the larger places like FuBonn (on SE 82nd) and Uwajimaya (in Beaverton)...and Newman's in City Market. You can also buy crab meat by the lb here, just like back east, and use it in pasta or a crab cocktail.
Lots of places make tasty stuff with crab. Higher end sushi places will have crab nigiri with real dungeness, Davis Street Tavern makes one hell of a Crab Bisque (with a nice pile of crab in the center of course!), Malay Satay Hut does a chili crab that is popular, and any of the Asian/Chinese restaurants with tanks usually do crab dishes at market price (my favorite Chinese place in town right now is Ocean City on SE 82nd).
And if you go to the coast, there are lots of shack like places here and there that steam and sell crab, like Ecola Seafood in Cannon Beach and Barview Jetty Fishery.