This crab salad dish is originated from Gò Công, a district of Tiền Giang province in southern Vietnam. It is called Gỏi nham or simply nham by the people there while it is known as Gỏi cua Gò Công (Go Cong crab salad) in other areas of the country. This salad was once a dish to be offered to the imperial rulers.
The main ingredient is the crab meat and tomalley of female crabs. It’s the tomalley that makes the dish unique, so only female crabs are desirable because they have big red ovaries. The male crab has more meat than the female crab, but its tomalley is black, not red and no one uses the male crab for this crab salad. Occasionally, some people may add pork belly or chicken but that affect the originality of the recipe.
The vegetables for this salad include: fish mint (Houttuynia cordata) as the main vegetable, sliced star fruit and green “seed” banana. The source of acidity is from a local mild vinegar, but modern adaptation is lime juice.
Steam the crabs briefly with rice wine or crushed lemongrass stalks or lime leaves. The crabs just need to be semi-cooked. Shuck them for meat and tomalley separately.
In a saucepan, sautee the minced garlic with some pork lard or vegetable oil. Add the shredded crab meat, and stir a little bit. Season lightly (sugar, granule seasoning, some black pepper or minced chili pepper).
In a salad bowl, add the fish mint leaves and a few starfruit slices slightly squeeze them but do not crumple up. Add the crab meat, chili strips or slices and wait for the warm tomalley sauce.
In a new sauce pan, sautee the minced garlic and chili on low heat. Add the crab tomalley, and stir. Then add 4 tablespoons sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons fish sauce, 3 tablespoons rice vinegar. Stir them up until the sugar dissolves. Pour the sauce onto the salad bowl, and mix well.
In a serving plate, add a layer of starfruit and green banana slices. Add the marinated crab and vegetables on top.
Some suggest the ratio of 1 fish sauce and 2 sugar in the salad sauce. Anyway, balance the sweet, sour, salty and spicy tastes.
Salad sauce should be warm while mixing.
The dish can be served with prawn crackers.