Las Vegas might be landlocked and 2,500 miles from the east coast, but thanks to the seafood markets located in our Chinatown, treats like these live blue crabs are only a few minutes away.
The lively crabs you see here came from the Greenland Market in the Koreatown plaza on Spring Mountain, but all of the Asian markets with a seafood department in Chinatown stock them. They might not be as large as the jumbo crabs I remember eating in Baltimore, but for $1.00 each and with a can of Old Bay seasoning, a traditional Chesapeake Bay crab feast in the Mojave Desert couldn’t be easier.
Being a relatively messy affair, a crab feast like the ones folks in Baltimore enjoy is a usually a back-yard event. Large pots of steamed crabs dosed with a hefty coating of spicy Old Bay seasoning (the seasoning of choice on the east coast for this) are dumped in a pile on top of layers of newspaper. Diners use their hands and small wooden mallets to crack the shells and suck the sweet meat from the legs, claws and body. Nothing more than plenty of cold beer is needed to enjoy the tradition.
Since the live crabs we have access to here in Vegas are on the small side, plan on serving 10-12 crabs per person. As with any live seafood, when buying live crabs, choose the friskiest ones in the bin and keep your fingers away from the claws. Tongs are the best way to safely move them from one place to another. If you are new to eating blue crabs, there are numerous videos on YouTube to walk you through the process.
Steamed Maryland Style Blue Crabs
Live blue crabs (10-12 person if they are small)
Old Bay Seasoning
Place a rack in the bottom of a very large pot and add equal amounts of water and vinegar to make a two inch depth of liquid.
Using tongs, layer the crabs in the pan sprinkling a very generous layer of Old Bay on each crab. It’s almost impossible to over-season these, so don’t skimp.
Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, place a lid on the pot and steam for about 20-30 minutes, depending on how many layers you are steaming at once.
Wet paper towels or hand wipes for wiping hands and faces are a nice touch. If you insist on serving something with the crabs, corn on the cob is the only traditional accompaniment for a genuine Maryland crab feast.