Tamarind Crabs - The ultimate street food experience
The greatest seafood experience in Vietnam may just be found on the outskirts of the city. Often when guests are visiting or just because we haven't been there in a while, a trip to Tamarind Crabs is in order.
Exactly who discovered this gem and spread the word throughout the expat community will forever remain a mystery. Usually the story is the stuff of urban legends, something to the effect of “A friend of a friend of a friend brought me here but don’t worry, you’ll love it.” The lights of the city’s high rises fade away as you approach the more chaotic streets of Saigon past. Highways become single lane streets and then alleyways.
At last you arrive and while you pay the cab driver less than you would to go to the airport it feels like you’re in a different city. The ordering process is simple. How many people? How hungry are you? Two crabs per person but in the end we always order too much.
The maestro of the wok mixes the bubbling cauldron with garlic, garlic, more garlic, sugar, sugar and more sugar. Then comes a healthy serving of tamarind reduction and 10-12 unlucky crabs. The end result is a perfect sauce. It’s a pure sugar rush complimented by the tangy tamarind, a garlicky kick and a consistency of warm maple syrup.
The crab and sides of fresh French bread are the delivery method for the sauce. The hardest part is holding back when the steaming platters of finished crab are set on the table. Pick up one too early and you risk third-degree burns!