Cua Rang Muối Rock Salt Crab – 34 of 365

Rock Salt Crab

I know little about Tet other than this simple monosyllabic word has the power to set an entire country off into some sort of manic hyperdrive in the weeks leading up to the lunar new year.  Then for about a week this entire country slams on the brakes as the Vietnamese turn inward to their families.  Visualize a world of no traffic, no grocery stores and shops and mostly closed restaurants.  Yes, noisy and chaotic Vietnam grinds to a halt.   I suppose anywhere so full of color and high decibel energy the rest of the year needs a week to recharge and regroup in anticipation of a fresh and prosperous year ahead.

I got to thinking how our lives in America remain in warp speed 365 days a year.  Even Thanksgiving and Christmas, our Tet equivalent, aren’t sacred anymore with people putting events such as Black Friday ahead of season’s true meaning, if that meaning even exists anymore.   During this current Tet period my own life has finally slowed down enough to match the much more languid pace of the cityscape around me, and my friends and I have had the chance to savor some truly delicious meals.   If Tet is the time for the Vietnamese to spend time with their families, so have we with each other and food has been one common ground.

Hungry stomachs and two taxis brought nine of us to District 1’s Cục Gạch Quán at 10 Đặng Tất  Street.  The restaurant’s name literally means “mini ceramic department.” Translation: Brick.    Brick is definitely off the trail but then again aren’t the best finds usually tucked away from the masses we eschew but usually end up a part of anyway?  The extensive menu takes Vietnamese classics and elevates them to a point that can please even the pickiest western palates such as mine yearning for something more than gristle, fat and chicken guts with a meal.   Dimly lit Brick has the feel of a private villa from the turn of a century long before any of us were even living.

Ryan selected several dishes with the centerpiece being rock salt crab.   Is foodgasm a word or even a concept in foodie circles?  If not, the taste of this dish invented the word.   Imagine a large platter of lightly fried softshell crab surrounding a pile of greens seasoned with a lemony vinaigrette.  Yes, multiple foodgasms for sure.

He also noted that “crab is usually so much effort for a little bit of meat.”  We can all verify Ryan’s observation as true since we’ve all been there trying to crack the hard shell away only to suck out a stingy amount of stringy meat.  All the while we are burning our fingers, making a mess and wondering why in the hell we didn’t just order the chicken.   Rock salt crab is quite the opposite with large amounts of meat just under a soft, brittle shell.  The only effort required is maneuvering the chopsticks into the bowl and then bringing a juicy piece back to the mouth without dropping it enroute.

Imagine a platter of light brown fried crab as soft as a scallop but with an edible shell the thinness of those annoying little yellow bits that sometimes attach to a piece of popped corn.   The entire crab melts in the mouth and the initial bite releases a buttery tasting liquid.  We simultaneously taste the sweet softness of meat under the salty crunch of the outer layer and a mix of sour and sweet from the nuoc mam dipping sauce.  For sure this fung shui creates the perfect harmonious Asian dish.

Sarah summed up our crab dish the best, “It’s perfect for its simplicity.  It’s just rock salt.”   I’d like to add that some of the best experiences in life are perfect in their simplicity as well such as nine friends sharing a wonderful meal during Tet.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Vietnamese Food

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: