Happy Lunar New Year! I love it when I get the chance to celebrate the new year again (especially when those resolutions don’t pan out!) This year is the Year of the Ox which makes me realize I have come full circle in the cycle of the 12 animals of the zodiac since I started cooking Chinese New Year dinners 12 years ago to celebrate with friends and family. The banquet always starts off with soup and among those I have made, I particularly love to make a crab and corn soup called gunn that is sort of like a chowder. Here in northern California we are blessed with dungeness crabs which are opportunely in season during this festive time of year. When I first started making Chardonnay from our estate grapes, I tinkered with my soup to make the flavors match the zingy citrus nose and minerality on the palate. I ended up with something that was not that traditional, a fusion-y cousin, if you will. Heaven forbid if my grandmother should find out I messed with culinary custom but perhaps some Peay Chardonnay might improve her acceptance of the modifications!
The body and leg shells from one picked-over crab plus 4 cups water or substitute 4 cups chicken or fish stock
3 large or 4 medium corn cobs
2 slices (1/4 inch) of peeled galanga or 1 slice of ginger
a few sprigs of cilantro
Husk ears of corn and clean off the silks. Get a big bowl. Use a sharp knife and cut corn from the cob into the bowl. You’ll want to cut about half way deep into the corn. Then, turn the knife over to the non-cutting side and rub up and down the cob to get the rest of the pulp. Use the cobs for making the stock and reserve the kernels for the soup.
Put the shells and water or the prepared stock in a saucepan with the corn cobs, galanga, scallions and cilantro. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and then lower heat to low to simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Strain through a sieve and reserve liquid.
2 Tbs canola oil
2 shallot cloves minced
1 garlic clove minced
corn kernels cut from the 3-4 corn cobs (see above)
1 stalk of lemongrass cut into 4 inch lengths
4 kaffir lime leaves torn into large pieces
juice of 1/2 lime
2 Tbs fish sauce
salt and white pepper to taste
stock (see above)
1 cup cooked crab meat (about 8 oz)
1/2 cup coconut milk
cilantro for garnish
In a dutch oven or large stock pot sauté the shallots and garlic over medium heat in the oil for a few minutes. Add the corn kernels, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, lime juice and fish sauce and sautŽ for about 5 minutes. Season with the salt and white pepper to taste. Add the stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove lemongrass and kaffir lime pieces. Purée using an immersion blender or in batches with a food processor. For a very elegant presentation you can make a smoother soup by further passing the purée through a fine food mill. Put the crab meat into the puréed soup in the pot and gently heat just until heated through. Taste and adjust seasonings with the salt, pepper and fish sauce. Serve in heated bowls. Garnish with a drizzle of 1 tablespoonful of coconut milk and chopped cilantro.
A Note on Crabs
I prefer to use fresh live crabs to make this soup because the texture and flavor is superior but picked cooked lump crab meat that is fresh, frozen or canned will work too. To cook a crab: boil or steam it for about 7 minutes per pound or boil 10 minutes once the water is back to a vigorous boil. Keep the shells to make the crab stock.