Last week, I gave y’all a lesson about crabs and their hepatopancreas. Ok fine, I didn’t give a lesson I gave a link, but whatever, you’re now more knowledgeable than you were before so I rest my case. All that talk about hepatopancreases (my new favourite word) pulled at my heart strings, which I know sounds weird, like why would crab “mustard” make me all sad, but it does. And it does because…

I miss my daddy.

And his chilli crabs. (in that order).

Growing up in a small village in Malaysia (Bukit Kecil for those who are nosy), my dad’s family made their livelihood as farmers and fisherman. So even as a child, my dad would trudge off into the mangroves and rivers with his thirteen siblings and come back with buckets full of crab, fish, and prawns.

They’d slowly make their way home along a pot-holed dirt road (which even when I was born and alive and very much kicking was still a pot-holed dirt road), passing by the family vegetable farm, plucking a handful of home-grown vegetables to take home for their mother.

And this was dinner in the poor little village ~ fresh seafood and home grown greens.

Geez, what I wouldn’t give to be poor right now.

When we moved to Brisbane in 1988, I think the first thing my dad did was suss out the local rivers and mangroves because dang if he’s gonna start paying for seafood now. And he recon’d good. He found secret mangroves and well-known jetties, he made his own crab “dillies” (initially out of wood, then sometime in the industrial revolution, he moved onto steel – not shit) and proceeded to provide his family with an endless supply of fresh mud crabs, sand crabs, fish, prawns and even the occasional string ray.

But he didn’t stop there, he bought us a house with a large garden, not for his kids to play in (because dude, my dad’s Chinese, we were locked in our rooms and forced to study for 27 hours a day) but so he could plant various varieties of fruits and vegetables.

The vegie patch is constantly changing depending on the season or his whim, but normally on the cards are bok choi, gai lan and snake beans.

The fruit trees are far more exciting. Longans are one of my favourite fruits and even though they only seem to thrive in the Southeast Asian heat, my dad grew me a longan tree which survived like half a season but imagine the awesomeness of being allowed out of my room after 27 hours of studyΒ and being able to pick my own longan fresh from the tree!

These days my dad still plants fruits, he’s got a thriving guava tree and persimmon tree, a couple of little kumquat trees and, I might be lying here but a papaya tree? Maybe? Mum?

Anyway, I’m totally digressing…

All this hepatopancreas talk had me missing my dad and his chilli crabs. Growing up in our household, we had crabs every weekend, if not almost every day during the summer months. We usually had these dudes boiled and ready to go, just staring at us with them beady eyes:

We’d sometimes had them just plain boiled, dipped in soy sauce, or sometimes my mum would whip up the bestest most awesomest fresh crab & sweetcorn soup:

But my very most favourite food memories were from when my dad cooked up his scrumptious chilli crabs. See the snake beans in the background? Those are home grown too.

My dad’s chilli crabs are just To. Die. For. I don’t know how he makes it, I don’t think the recipe is a secret or anything but I’m just a crap daughter and I never learnt (but I will!). And it’s not like I just want to say the word again, but the sauce, the secret to what makes the sauce taste good is a decent helping of the crab’s hepatopancreas and better yet, roe if you have some of that.

I miss my dad’s chilli crabs, I really do. There’s nothing like getting down and dirty with a dish like this and soaking the sauce up with plain rice or a toasted man tao. It’s spicy, it’s sweet, it’s tangy, it’s pungent. Urgh I love that word.. pungent.

But my parents’ culinary prowess don’t end there. Another favourite homecoming dish of mine is my mum’s curry fish with okra and aubergine. I don’t think I need to say much about this one… just look at the curry goodness.

My mum is also a pro at Malaysian kuehs and OMG she makes the best home made char siu baos, sitting on the floor and kneading the dough into airy oblivion for hours. Dedication. Love.

I miss them πŸ™


Ok! So I’ve successfully homesicked myself out of the stratosphere now. I’m seeing my parents in April, but that’s not at home ~ we’re meeting mid-way in Hong Kong to attend my cousin’s wedding… and I’m not due for a trip back to Australia until… I don’t know when.

But the good thing about parents is that no matter how long you’ve been gone, be it a month or a decade, they’re always there and they’re always the same. And they always know what you love, and they always have it ready.

So, who wants to come home with me?

22 Thoughts on “home grown love: my daddy’s chilli crabs

  1. Aw, Catty – great post, and a lovely paean to your parents!

    With food like that, then yup – I most DEFINITELY want to go home with you. When do I pack? πŸ˜‰

  2. Oh manz! The crabs looked so good! I am going to HK too but half of me want to revisit Perth instead. Can’t decide! Hahaha .. hang in there love! HK has at least some good asian grub!

  3. oh my….you NEED to get the recipes from your folks! never mind if you take forever to get your versions to 90$ facsimile of what they do…but the recipes!!

  4. take me with you! pretty pleeeease!

  5. aforkful: thank you πŸ™‚ hehe I might have to take you home with me one day!

    chelley: I do love HK – have been there three times and always come back a little heavier around the ass πŸ˜‰

    vix: I KNOW. i will. promise.

    Jules: hehe you’re little, I can pack you with!

  6. It must be hard, sometimes, to be sooo far away from your family. I love, love, love travelling and do so as much as I can but I am not as brave as you to actually move so far from home, as I think that homesickness would be hard to deal with. Even though it only comes on sometimes and even though you’re living a great life, it must be hard. So, my sympathies!

    Your post reminded me (a tiny bit) of the one and only single dish my dad ever cooks and that’s crab curry. He learned the recipe from Ceylonese family friends who lived around the corner from us in Luton, growing up. The couple split up and we never saw my “uncle” again but were very close my “aunt” until she passed away a few years later.

    My dad still cooks this curry, once every few years. But the crab comes from local shops, when there’s a good deal on decent quality fresh whole crabs!

  7. I miss my mum really badly and she’s only 100 miles away and I get to see her once a month, the thought of only seeing her every couple of years I just cannot imagine. However my best friend of 20 yrs emigrated to Australia a couple of years ago and I miss her terribly.

    I love crab. Never had it in a curry although obviously had it with sweet chilli so I’m sure I’d love it.

  8. Kavey: Oooh crab curry sounds great πŸ™‚ Yeh it’s hard sometimes. I moved out when I was 18 so it’s been a while, it’s not too hard most of the time but I do miss my mummy! and my daddy too!

    Sarah: Ah if my mum was closer I would see her ALL the time! For food and hugs πŸ™‚

  9. My dear Catty, as leaving away from home just like you, I completely understand your feeling but I see only one solution, you should invite your dad over and organise a blogger evening to enjoy his recipe!

  10. No restaurants, no reviews, no recipes but you know what, it’s probably your best post yet !

  11. Mathilde: that is a BRILLIANT idea! I’ll start my campaign now πŸ™‚

    Mr Noodles: THANK YOU. Best comment I have ever received πŸ˜€

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  13. i’ve been getting that exact dose of seafood and fruit appreciation plus stories of crab catching childhood this past month with my dad! hehe.

  14. your dad does make the bestest best chilli crab in the whole world! I can vouch for it!!! I think he adds the juice of one orange into it? maybe.

  15. oh u gotta invite me over for dinner. That’s all like crazy good food there πŸ™‚ ur dad sounds lovely! πŸ™‚ a daddy who cooks like that, you’re so lucky. x

  16. mc: oh you’re so lucky! Enjoy it before having to head home again πŸ™‚

    Maylin: Awesome, you’re a great witness! And yes I think he does.

    diva: I know, I’m very lucky πŸ™‚ I should try and convince my dad to come over althought he’d NEVER pay for crabs here. Maybe we’ll all make a foodie trip to Brisbane πŸ™‚

  17. Me me me … Can I tag along? I’ve never been to Australia n I’m a sucker for chili crab and fish curry and char siew bao. Eh … U shld learn all this from your parents ok. Even if you don’t cook it yet, at least note down the recipes. I’m starting to do that now every time I go home. LOL! My mom makes very good chili crab and fish curry too. My friends used to beg me to get my mom to cook chili crab and lots of other dishes for them to eat. LOL! Oh yeah, everyone (my friends n my sis friends) invade my house during CNY for my mom’s kueh pi ti. It’s to die for. They nothing else but this.

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  19. I’ll go home with you! Now that we’ve adopted each other, does that make us sisters? =)

    Lovely insight into your life hon xxx

  20. Cooking Ninja: You can tag along, my folks LOVE guests! πŸ™‚ They’d even have you over if I wasn’t there so lemme know if you plan to visit Brisbane πŸ™‚

    Mowie: You’re totally right! We’re sisters!! πŸ˜€

  21. Rebecca lee on February 14, 2010 at 12:59 pm said:

    Yummy … the crabs and the secret receipe is digesting in our tummies … πŸ™‚

  22. I’m infinitely jealous! Mum told me you guys were having chilli crabs for dinner for CNY. I’m crying just a little bit on the inside πŸ™ but Happy CNY to everyone! xxx

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