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Curacha is a type of crab found exclusively off the coast of Zamboanga, in the southern Philippines. They are bright red in color and contain a large amount of meat. The most popular way of preparing curacha is to simply steam or boil it, enjoying the meat with very few spices to detract from the flavor, although small amounts of garlic or onions are usually added during cooking. The crabs are generally less expensive than other crabs native to the region, and are served in many restaurants throughout the country, although they are only available year-round in Zamboanga. The meat of the crab is very resilient and has a flavor slightly stronger than that of more traditional crab meats.
The curacha is a relatively big creature with a large, wide body that tapers in the back to a series of segments that has the same appearance as a shortened lobster tail. The claws are large but very flat and contain little meat. The crab is bright red in color with a white underbelly and pink tones around the sides; it does not change color while it is cooking. There are species similar to the curacha known as the red crab and frog crab that can be found all along the Western Pacific Rim, although they are only relatives and have some differences. The name curacha is a local word that means "cockroach," most likely because the legs of the crab have a similar appearance to the legs of a cockroach, with small hair-like structures jutting from them.
A classic preparation for the curacha is to boil it in a sauce that has had some light flavors added to it. This can include garlic, ginger, salt and pepper. It is suggested that, for this recipe, the crab be left intact rather than opened or split apart.
Another recipe involves steaming the crab, sometimes along with onions or scallions and garlic. In this method, the crab can be left whole or cut into quarters, because they are very large crabs with a lot of bulk in the body, which contains most of the meat. The legs and claws, which do not contain much meat, can be removed and cooked separately.
It also is possible to cook curacha by halving or quartering the crab and then frying it with chilies, oil, garlic and ginger. The finished crab can then be served with a reduced, spiced coconut milk sauce poured over top with rice on the side. The meat has a strong enough flavor that it can tolerate a good level of heat and a thick, rich sauce with a lot of fat in it.
It's not exclusive to zamboanga coastal waters; we have that in zambales.
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