A chef friend of mine has recently observed that there is something deeply absurd about buying a pre-cooked crayfish and then cooking it again at home. Crayfish (and I’m talking here about the Southern Rock Lobster) is a sweet and delicate meat and to subject it to double cooking is essentially absurd. When you’re paying the kind of money you pay for a Cray, you want to be treating it with respect. I figure you therefore have two options. The first is that you buy live crays and kill them yourself. We did this at Christmas and threw them on the BBQ with lemon brandy butter and fresh herbs. Fearing overcooking, they were slightly undercooked but still very lovely and easy to prepare. The whole process was reasonably confronting to the kids, however, who grew quite attached to them during the long hours that they lived in a box in our fridge. The slaughter was poorly received in some quarters.
The second option is to buy them precooked and then just simply not cook them again. Now personally I find the whole pre-cooked seafood served straight up thing quite confronting. It makes me think of those embarrassing occasions when people excitedly tell you they have a platter of prawns and then serve up a pile of things that were cooked at least a day or two earlier. They usually smell wrong, have an odd texture and come with something completely hideous such as Thousand Island Dressing. Nasty.
So anyway, it’s Chinese New Year and I always like to cook for my loved ones at this time. Crays are still relatively cheap down here, they’re a local product supporting local people and so it just seemed right. What to do? I completely fancied the idea of a classic Crayfish stir- fried with ginger and spring onion. I last had this dish at Flowerdrum, so fresh the flesh was practically still twitching. But you need a live Cray which I didn’t want to get, mainly because the other dish I was preparing was a complex double deep fried chicken dish and I needed the Cray to be something that could be put on the table with minimal fuss. Here is my solution (Gong Xi means congratulations, by the way…)
Gong Xi Crayfish
- 1 pre-cooked crayfish, halved length ways and cleaned. Larger crays have a sweeter, superior flavour
- Juice of half a lemon
- Teaspoon light soy sauce
- few drops sesame oil
- Two spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal
- Knob of ginger, peeled, cut into thin strips and finely julienned
- 3 cloves crushed garlic
- 1 – 2 tablespoons of peanut oil. DO NOT be tempted to use any other sort of oil, especially olive oil which will not tolerate high cooking temperatures.
Remove the crayfish from the shell and cut into bite sized pieces. Separate the tail part of the shell from the head part. Retain the tail and chuck the head (or preferably retain it to make stock). Marinade the flesh in the lemon juice, soy sauce and sesame oil for about half an hour. At serving time, pile the flesh back into the shells for presentation. Heat up the peanut oil in a small pan and heat until smoking hot. Drop in the ginger and spring onions, cook very briefly, then add the garlic. Once you’ve put the ginger and spring onion in, you don’t want to be waiting more than 30 seconds before pouring the hot oil over the Cray. Serve immediately. No problems with the kids eating this, by the way…