Soft-shell crab is a culinary term for crabs which have recently molted their hard old shell (exoskeleton) and are still soft. These molted crabs are then seasoned and turned into delectable dishes for an exciting epicurean adventure. Seasoning involves the use of spices popular in this part of the country. Kuala Gula’s soft-shell crab growing popularity warrants a gastronomic review of major proportions befitting its stature.
Kuala Gula, incidentally, is located about 50 kilometres west of Taiping or 100 kilometres north-west of Ipoh. It is accessible from the old trunk road via the township of Simpang Empat. One can exit the Plus Expressway to the old trunk road via the Kamunting toll gate.
Soft-shell crab farming is a fast-growing industry in Kuala Gula, thanks in no small way to the abundance of Nipah crabs, a species that inhabits the marshland of the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve. Kuala Gula is the southerly extension of this famous mangrove swamp.
Processing soft-shell crab may look simple to the layman but it is a tedious process that requires careful supervision and timing. Captured crabs are selected based on their size and are placed, not more than six, in each plastic container. Their pincers and legs are removed before placement.
The containers with the crabs are then submerged in the sea water at a preselected site to enable supervision. After 21 days the crabs will have a new pair of pincers and a new set of legs. The shell, having molted, remains soft. The crabs are ready for the pot.
Among the sought after dishes prepared by the many seafood restaurants that line the Kuala Gula shoreline are sweet sour crabs, ketam lembut 3 rasa, a favourite delicacy with locals and fried crabs dipped in flour. Prices vary depending on the size of the crabs. The basis of consideration is RM5 per crab. This is a very conservative estimate. However, cost will not be a factor when taste outstrips capital outlay.
Seeing is believing, so the saying goes. Your visit to Kuala Gula is incomplete without you tasting its culinary delight – soft-shell crab. Kuala Gula beckons you.