I bought this at Kowloon Market on my last culinary excursion to Ottawa. I have had various sorts of crab paste at one time or another and I have actually purchased this same brand before. The last time, however was well over 5 years ago and, when I saw it, I couldn’t for the life of me if it was a good one or not. I decided to give it another try…
There are many different sorts of crab pastes available. I have had some from Vietnam but this particular brand is from Thailand. Essentially, they are made using salted crabmeat and can be fermented to varying degrees of pungency. This one, like many, is packed in soybean oil.
As you can see, there is quite a lot of oil in this product. Many brands have a rather muddy, brownish appearance but this one has a very pleasant reddish color, which would make it more attractive as a dip than others.
The aroma, as you open the jar, definitely has hints of crab but is more of an amorphous ‘sea-umami’ richness. This is very much mirrored in the flavor and there is an underlying sweetness, which gives it a similarity to some XO sauces, although without the cloying richness that they often have. This particular brand is not especially pungent so I would guess that it is not fermented for any length of time. It does have a bit of an oily taste, and the soybean oil adds a flavor of its own, but that doesn’t detract from the overall effect too much.
Crab paste is quite versatile and can be used in many preparations, both cold and hot. I have mostly used it as a flavor base in stir-fried dishes but I especially like it stirred into noodles as a simple snack. It is a fairly common addition to fried rice dishes, especially Thai varieties, and others use it as a dip for cold vegetables. Suanne, co-blogger with her husband, Ben, over at Chowtimes, did a very nice Crab Paste Pasta that I might try and I have also come across a few other interesting preparations on the Internet that you may wish to look at:
This is not a bad crab paste, by any means… Personally, I prefer a slightly more pungent taste but this is still very nice. I am going to be thinking about how best to use it over the next little while but I suspect that it is going to be best suited to subtle preparations that won’t overwhelm the very delicate flavor of this particular brand.