Friday, September 02, 2011

Chili Curacha Pasta

I have mentioned before that my husband’s family hails from down south our little archipelago. From a lovely city called Zamboanga to be exact. I’ve been there twice before, the first time carrying with it the particularly happy memory of getting engaged. It is a place not often visited by the average local tourist, who you will most often find in one of the idyllic beaches in the Visayas region (the middle portion of our islands). But Zamboaga City holds many charms for those who venture onto her doorstep.

Zamboanga City is sassy jewel cozily ensconced between sea and mountain, which in my book is the most enviable position for a city to be in. It has a pristine island off its coast whose shore is the palest pink. Remnants of Spanish rule cling sultrily at every corner. More than any place that I have visited in the Philippines, it is really Zamboanga that has the atmosphere of an old colonial stronghold. You can feel it in the air, taste it in the cuisine, and hear it in the language – a Spanish-Filipino patios called Chavacano.

And it is home to curacha, a deep water crab particular to the region. Its bright red-orange shell (which remains the same whether live or cooked) and large, slightly hairy body may look a tad monstrous to some, but all I see is the moist, sweet meat within.

This curacha was a much-appreciated gift from my father-in-law, flown in to us from Zamboanga. C picked up the cooler from the airport and rushed home where little C and I made quick work of its bindings. I couldn’t imagine how little C would react to these creatures but the hyper-exaggerated combination of excitement and terror made me kick myself for not taking out my video cam.

When we are gifted with these prime specimens we usually have some simply steamed and work at them tirelessly with our hands until every last bit of meat is in our tummies. There were so much of them though, and a couple were just huge, so I decided to pick the meat off a few and freeze it for later use. This pasta dish was the result of some of that meat…a splendid result!

Chili Curacha Pasta
  • 250-300 grams linguine
  • Olive oil
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 400-gram can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes (more or less depending on how spicy you like it)
  • 250 grams curacha meat (or any crab meat)
  • 100 ml heavy cream
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • Optional: greens for garnish – I used wild rocket but I think basil would work well too.
- Cook the linguine as per package instructions (don't forget to salt the pasta water!). Save some of the pasta water.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat a couple of generous glugs of olive oil in a pan.
- When the oil is hot add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and chili flakes, and stir. Let this cook for about 10-15 minutes, until some of the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes are thick and pulpy. Add a couple of swirls of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and let this cook a couple minutes more.
- Add the crab meat and stir. Cook this for another 5 minutes or so until the meat heats through and the flavors meld. Taste and adjust seasoning. If that sauce looks like it’s drying out add some pasta water.
- Add the cream and stir. Cook for a minute or so and adjust seasoning on final time.
- Toss with the cooked pasta noodles, adding the sauce a little at a time. You may have some sauce leftover. Alternately you can serve the noodles and sauce separately.

Unlike most crabs, whose best meat is in its claws, the curacha’s meat is concentrated in its body. I still remember the first time I tried one and it seemed like every time I hungrily poked my fingers into its body more and more meat came out. The meat itself is sweet and soft and absolutely delicious.

This is a simple crab pasta with chili, tomato, and cream…made just a little more special by using our beloved curacha. I threw in some wild rocket at the last minute to add a touch of green. Adjust the chili to suit your taste and feel free to experiment with the greens/herbs you use. I am thinking of making a version with fennel…what do you think?

I still have some of the picked curacha meat in the freezer and I am just itching to use it. Any suggestions? :)


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That pasta dish looks so scrumptious!



MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Oooooo such a sunny dish. Really beautiful Joey! and I'm sure it was delightful.

Becky said...

Thank you for this recipe. I was actually thinking of making a pasta dish for an early dinner for me and my bf. I have everything except for the crab. I'll just substitute shrimp instead :)

Suzi said...

This looks absolutely wonderful. Definately on my to make list. Thanks for sharing.

chef_d said...

Oh my goodness...had curacha only once in my life and it was sooo delicious! Thankyou for sharing this recipe, it looks yummy!

Midge said...

Crab and pasta is such a gorgeous combination - and given the sweetness of curacha, this must have been quite a meal.

Just a suggestion from me about the leftover crabmeat: serve it cold on top of chilled buckwheat or green tea soba with a light drizzle of soy or ponzu sauce and some minced chives on top. Light and lovely!

ChichaJo said...

Thanks Rosa :)

Hi Tanna! Thanks! It was :)

Hi Becky! I'm sure this will work with shrimp too :)

Hi Suzi! You are welcome...hope you like it!

Hi Chef D! Isn't if great? :) We are always so excited when C's dad brings us some :)

Hi Midge! Thanks for the idea...that's sounds delicious!

Lula said...

I don't think my husband likes crab :( hmm I know, do you recommend anything else?

millet said...

the fat (aligue) inside the carapace is perfect in the pasta sauce, too! i love the sweet, coconutty flavor of the curacha aligue.

as to the loot in the freezer, an omelet chock-full of crab, perhaps, or a rich crab dip, o a crab salad with lots of celery and a light mayo-wasabi dressing, spread thickly on ciabatta. am so envious!

Eileen said...

This dish looks divine. Next time we have curacha at home I will definitely make this dish :)

Samantha Sotto said...

YUM! I think I gained ten pounds just by looking at that photo! :)

Miri Leigh said...

This looks delicious! An extra past dish recipe is always a plus!

Kellu Marian said...

Yes i love the fennel idea!! I now want to see that extra crab that you have in a re-vamped Crab rice dish ! YUM!!

Kelly Marian said...

Jo Lets make some Crab Rangoon! I miss this !

This Baked Crab Rangoon is so simple to make...


1 Can-Crab Meat-drained and flaked

4 Ounces-Philadelphia Cream Cheese-Less Fat

1/4 Cup-Green Onions-Minced

1/4 Cup-Lite Mayonnaise

12-Won Ton Wrappers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix ingredients well.

Spray a 12-Muffin pan with cooking spray.

Place 1 won ton wrapper in each cup, allowing the edges to fold over the sides of the cups.

Fill evenly with the crab meat mixture.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

Garnish with green onions if desired.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Lula! You can try this with shrimp :)

Hi Millet! As usual excellent advice! Thanks! Now I’m confused, but happily so :)

Hi Eileen! Yay! Hope you like it :)

Hi Samantha! Thanks for dropping by! Don’t worry, my photos are calorie-free ;)

Hi Miri! Thanks! Yes, one can never have too many pasta recipes :)

Hi Mar!! :) That baked crab Rangoon sounds fantastic! I want to make!

Ling said...


carina said...

I've been to Zamboanga years ago. And now I don't remember how may churachas I ate hehehehe. Oh, and I miss the knickerbocker too! Hope to re-visit Zamboanga soon :)

Katrina said...

Oooooh, curachaaaaah!!! I think the last time I had that was when Alavar was still open here -- probably in the early '90s. How I miss it! You're so lucky that C is from Zamboanga and you can get this delicious crustacean flown to you!

Barbara said...

Delish Joey. I love crab. It is part of my childhood as my grandfather would take us on crabbing catch most weekends.

Tammy said...

Wow, this pasta looks great. Cant wait to try it tomorrow :)



Dhanggit said...

I never tasted a Curacha before (I only get to see them in pictures of tourism brochures lol). And this pasta dish looks yummy and easy to do (although finding the curacha may be hard to do hehehe)anyways I would love to visit Zamboanga someday, i really hope while I'm still here in Manila. thanks for sharing :-)

ChichaJo said...

Haha! Ling! :) :)

Hi Carina! I don’t remember how many curachas we devoured on our trips to Zamboanga either! And oh yes the knickerbockers! :)

Hi Katrina! We are counting our blessings! Now I’m craving Alavar sauce!

Hi Barbara! Sounds like such a great memory of childhood :)

Hi Tammy! Hope you like it!

Hi Dhanggit! Curacha is really delicious but, lacking that, you can make this with any crab :)