Neosarmatium smithi - the sad-faced crabs

Neosarmatium smithi – the sad-faced crab

Neosarmatium smithi is a herbivorous mangrove crab which is distributed all over marine and brackish waters of Indo-West Pacific regions. This swimming crab is known to feeds on decaying mangrove leaves.

  • Family: Sesarmidae
  • Genus: Neosarmatium
  • Species: Neosarmatium smithi
  • Synonyms: Sesarma smithi
  • Vieitnamese name: chù ụ
Neosarmatium smithi - the sad-faced crab
Neosarmatium smithi – the sad-faced crab

In Vietnam, Neosarmatium smithi is known as chù ụ which can be understood as sad-faced crab. The crab can be found in the brackish waters in southern mangrove forests. Sometimes, it is mistaken for another common mangrove crab known as Sesarma mederi (Vietnamese: ba khía). The latter has three distinctive grooves on its shell, and smaller in size.

Culinary uses

In Trà Vinh province, the sad-faced crab can be caught in brackish alluvial beaches, coastal forests… However, this crab species is very shy and often hide itself so it’s more difficult to catch.

The sad-faced crabs will be cooked in many ways: grilled, boiled, steamed and stir-fried/sauteed with tamarind. Unike the Sesarma mederi or some paddy crabs, the meat of the sad-faced crab is sweeter and more chewy. The red fatty tomalley is also prized by some people. Many people even chew on the shells because they have a very strange crispiness.

Boiled sad-faced crabs (Neosarmatium smithi)
Boiled sad-faced crabs

Steaming sad-faced crabs with beer or boiling crabs in coconut water and served with salt/black pepper/lime condiment is the simplest rustic cooking method but still very delicious.

roasted sad-faced crabs (Neosarmatium smithi)
Roasted/grilled sad-faced crabs

To make pan-roasted sad-faced crabs with tamarind dish, first clean the crabs, then, pan-roast them in a pan of boiling oil, then add onions and garlic and sauté. Finally, add tamarind juice, and season to taste.

Pan-roasted sad-faced crabs in tamarind
Pan-roasted sad-faced crabs in tamarind

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