Eating Crabs for Health

Written by Dr. Harold Gunatillake

All sea food contains unsaturated fats, mainly omega type 3 fatty acids, quite healthy to the well-being of the heart, and arteries. Also contains, nutritious nutrients, vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and other minerals. Crabs have 71 to 85 calories and no dietary fiber or carbohydrates. They provide 15g of high quality protein, which represents 30 per cent of the recommended daily value based on a 2000 calorie-a-day diet. Because of the low calories per se, crabs should be incorporated in your low calorie restricted diet. People with diabetes need not hesitate to enjoy cooked crabs, having no carbohydrates in the meat.

Crabs are quite low in saturated fat, contains a greater proportion of poly-unsaturated fatty acids, provide heart-healthy essential fatty acids, supplying 0.24g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 0.1g of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
However, as all seafood, they're high in cholesterol, though that will not influence the serum cholesterol level. It is to be emphasized that you could eat plenty of seafood without raising the serum cholesterol levels. It is the saturated fats in food that is converted to bad cholesterol in the liver.

Crabs have an exceptional source of vitamin B12, magnesium, folate, with 37.4mcg. and vitamin B6, 0.1 mg. The latter combined with B12 reduces homocysteine, a natural breakdown product of amino acids.

Crab and other shellfish are good sources of chromium, which works with insulin in the metabolism of sugar to maintain normal levels in the blood. Chromium seems to raise the HDL (good cholesterol) levels, which is supposed to reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) levels lowering the incidence of coronary heart disease, and stroke.

Crabs contain a fair amount of selenium, a trace element of critical importance that works as an anti-oxidant, facilitating to detoxify carcinogenic substances like arsenic, cadmium, and mercury. It is shown that high levels of selenium helps to reduce the incidence of cancer rates...

Taste of crabs:
Whether you enjoy the OMG crabs at Ministry of Crabs, at the Old Dutch Hospital in Colombo, flown from Jaffna, or bought the ones caught along the Western coast, the spider looking variety, the taste seems to be about the same. But if you like the roe (eggs) of crabs which adds flavour always look for the female crab.

Much of the pleasure in eating is more in munching the soft bones, the soft shell and the limbs, in addition to eating the white meat. Glucosamine used for arthritis is an extract from the natural shells of sea food. So, why not get the natural extracts by taking the effort to crunch and munch the shells for its added unique flavour, too?

How to differentiate between males and females?

As you will see from the graphic, the female has a broad, triangular-shaped area in the centre of the shell, whereas the male has a distinctive, elongated spire in the centre

What is so special about OMG crabs?

OMG stand for "Oh my God". In Solomon Islands you get the biggest OMG coconut crabs. The adult crabs can reach a leg span of 1 m (3.3 ft.), a body length of 40 cm (1.3 ft.) and weigh up to 17 kg (38 pound), even if usually they reach 4 kg (9 pound). The largest insects (Goliath beetles) weigh just 100 grams... These crabs can live up to 60 years (!), a lot of time for a crustacean and they grow throughout their entire life.

The meat of this large crab is extremely appreciated, just like lobster or other crabs and it is also considered an aphrodisiac. Still, the meat can contain toxins from the ingested plants.
What is so special about OMG crabs served at the Ministry of Crab?

The crabs served here are of export quality, some of them grown up to 2 klgs in weight. It is claimed that the export quality crabs the two claws will be roughly equal in size, which produces a significant quantity of raw meat, which is darker and richer in flavour than the white meat, which is sweeter.

Also, we were informed that the crabs served are fresh from the sea and not frozen, like the ones we buy from the market. It is claimed that they are transported from Jaffna. How the live crabs could be transported such a distance, keeping them fresh beats me.

Cost of these special OMG crab at the Ministry of Crab is nearly Rs. 10,000 (Aus. $ 90) per head, the crab dish alone. It is said that each crab can be enjoyed by at least three persons. Crab Restaurant in Marine Drive, Wellawatte;

My wife and I patronized this restaurant serving Jaffna cuisine, mid-week. Found plenty of cars parking area in front of the restaurant, on Marine Drive. In most restaurants in Colombo, parking your car is a problem. The watcher standing at the entrance opened the car door, welcomed us with a smile, and greeting "good evening, Sir".

You could sit at any table of four with ocean views. The premises were extremely clean and tidy. Air-conditioning was not required as the sea breeze kept the place cool. Waiter service was efficient and polite. No chef visited us, as advertised. An ordinary sarong clad waiter served us.

Ordered a curried crab, 20 indiappams, potato curry, pol-sambol, and fried potatoes. As drinks, we ordered mango lassie.

Food was brought within 10 minutes. Taste of all the food including crab curry, was exquisite, with no excess salt, quite common in Asian cooking. The single crab was sufficient for two, the shell was soft, and there was some meat in the thin claws. Though the crab curry was cooked the 'Jaffna way', it wasn't too chillie hot.

Washing hands were at the wash basin at the back, very well kept and clean. You could take a foreign guest to this place, provided he is a crab fanatic. It is not upmarket with uniformed staff. They were all ordinary waiters. It is more like a daily eating house and making the customer important and paying personal attention was totally lacking.

The bill is as follows:
20 Indiappams Rs 90.00
Lassie Mango Rs. 180.00
Potato curry Rs 75.00
1 Crab curry Rs. 450.00
Pol sambol free
Total Rs. 885.00 (Aus. $ 7)
(The irony is that in most affluent countries the customary tip to the waiter is $.10)

Jaffna cuisine is renowned for its use of the fresh seafood readily available along the coast and the region is famous for crab curries. Being a peninsula, has an abundance of seafood.

You need to wash your hands and be prepared to get dirty. Curry juice generally splashes round your mouth, giving the others the impression that you are enjoying the crab curry, and subsequently your hands may have to be washed repeatedly in warm water, with a slice of lime floating. Of course, in Jaffna palmyrah toddy washes down the food through the gullet quite efficiently, like Chinese wash down their noodles with hot green tea. Those teetotallers and ladies would enjoy a soup known as Kool, is among the region's signature dishes.

Kool is cooked with crab, fish, cuttlefish, prawns, rice, chillies, turmeric, crayfish, added salt and two bottles of water, and turned into a broth with added jak seeds, manioc, and spinach, long beans, and with a bit of tamarind added, the entire dish is thickened with the help of palmy rah root flour. It takes several hours to prepare this broth properly.

The Southerners travel to Jaffna on holidays, and never seems to miss venturing this broth, they call, 'Kool'.

The adage "He comes from Jaffna" does not apply anymore. It's now reversed to, "He comes from Colombo", Ha! ha!.

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