We can’t arrive at meal number 365 without some final attempts at uncovering culinary weirdness, can we? Well, I do suppose weirdness is in the eye of the beholder. These cua rang, fried crabs, might very well be mainstream and normal in Hanoi on the side of the road heaped in a bowl awaiting the hungry. Of course since we don’t have anything similar in the grocery store deli back home, these come across fully exotic and enticing for average folks like me.
Now that I had a bag of these interesting critters dangling from my fingers, the next question begged an answer. How does one even eat these things? Is there supposed to be some tiny sliver of meat tucked away amongst all that plated armor? Do people just pop them in their mouths and crunch away shells and all? I wonder if a Vietnamese person stares at a 7 Layer Burrito at Taco Bell asking these same sorts of questions while wondering how in the hell do Americans eat this stuff.
Almost a year ago I sampled some fried soft shell crabs in Saigon 100% edible and equally delicious. Those paper thin shells merely disintegrated in my mouth. Normally crabs have that rock hard outer shell we frustratedly crack away. Now can you imagine eating that rock hard stuff and the horrors it would rain down on our teeth and gums? Today’s feast may not have been as tough, but the shells did contain some crunch.
Biting into one of these is much like biting into…well, I am fully at a loss what to compare them to. Just know they really have no taste at all accompanying all that hard shell. I suppose these are one way to inject a daily dose of calcium into our bodies. After three of these clawed things I threw in the towel. If I am going to expend this much chewing power to pulverize a crab into something soft enough to not eviscerate my pipes, it should at least have some taste other than lard and fingernails!
Yes indeed, how to properly eat some Vietnamese foods can be sheathed in riddles, and an instruction manual would be so helpful for the intrepid westerners amongst us who occasionally dabble in the bizarre.