Dry-roasted crabs or crab claws is a finger food, and traditionally, after the crabs have been eaten, hands are cleaned with a
squeeze of lime and a rinse in a warm cup of tea.
Dry roasting in a frying pan is one common cooking technique in Vietnam, especially with crustaceans like crabs. You are too bored with boiled crabs, or steamed crabs, you can change your food palate with dry-roasted crabs, either with salt and garlic or with tamarind paste.
Although true dry roasting technique utilize no oil, this dish is often started with some cooking oil, margarine or butter so that the food won’t get burned.
Clean the whole crabs, if using, in cold water several times. Twist and remove the apron attached to the underside of each, then remove the spongy parts attached to the interior and discard. Pull away and discard the top shell. Wash and dry the crab bodies and chop each one in half. Crack the claws with a heavy knife or with a claw cracker.
In a frying pan, heat the oil over a high flame. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute; do not allow the garlic to burn. Add the tomato paste, minced chili and lemongrass and stir for 1 minute longer, then add the crab and sprinkle with salt. Cover, turn the heat down to medium, and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover and stir a few more times, then remove from the heat and transfer to a platter. Serve at once.
In restaurants, whole crabs can be dry-roasted for an aesthetic look, an extra step of steaming or poaching is necessary to make sure the crabs are cooked.