The gold standard taste of crab fat sauce

Published August 6, 2020, 7:47 AM

by Gene Gonzalez

Fat is where the flavors are at.

Image from Juanitz Aligue

I just watched famous food vlogger Mark Wiens go on a trip to Mexico with some companions. After doing a street food tacos tour of Tijuana, they continued south to Popotla, a fishing village teeming with every fresh seafood you can imagine. The catch included giant spider crabs, also known as Martian crabs. During the meal, they savored the juicy fat in the shell of a Martian, for them, an alien but awesome and life-changing experience. Wiens called the soupy solution head butter. 

In the episode, they enjoyed a condensed mixture of three crabs that was served in the Martian’s shell (like it were a bowl). Everyone had these ecstatic expressions saying that this is the essence of a crab. 

Many Filipino urbanites don’t know that this is a Kapampangan and Bulakeño delicacy as well. As children, we were already mixing aligue with sautéed paste made from hundreds of talangka or dwarf marsh crabs that would fit a small baby food jar. The only enhancement needed was a twist of aromatic dayap orin other households, calamansi.

Though this delicacy has come from the rice fields where the marsh crabs are, crab fat has been hailed by several connoisseurs as a topping that can be in the league of caviar and truffles. Now, these rice fields seem to be disappearing into extinction. If we don’t watch out and don’t stop converting them to subdivisions and industrial parks, they will be gone for good.

The other day, we had long kitchen hours since we are working with a skeletal force. I had to think of a quick and easy dinner as everyone was too tired to cook and too tired for a complex meal. 

There you go: First, I got some basil leaves from the Cafe Ysabel garden. I chopped them, put them in olive oil, and readied some shredded kani sticks for a possible topping. The sauce has so much potential and is not just for pasta. It can also be for fish and other seafood as well. It is a reduction sauce so all you have to do is to give it a gentle simmer until you achieve right sauce consistency. 

Here is a simple recipe for my Crab Fat Sauce:


Basil leaves

¼ cup olive oil

1 cup bottled taba ng talangka

2 cups cream

1 tbsp. butter

1 tsp. garlic

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Start by chopping basil leaves and placing them in olive oil.

2. Make a quick crab fat reduction sauce by sautéing the bottled crab fat in garlic and butter then add cream. 

3. Start the reduction on low heat. The color will start to brighten to a light orange as it reduces. 

You can pour this sauce in steaming, freshly cooked pasta or rice. Just top the dish with shredded kani sticks or surimi and the chopped basil and olive oil mixture. This sauce can make a simple dish explode with big and fabulous flavors.