As a source of dietary protein and minerals, crab meat is hard to beat. It’s even said that crab could be more beneficial to our health than finfish. Here’s why.
Every summer during the monsoon rain season in the Cayman Islands, small groups of locals are out at night scouring the verges and roadside bushes around Grand Cayman’s mangrove swamps with a sack in one hand and a flashlight in the other.
The annual egg-laying journey of female land crabs from mangrove to ocean and back again is eagerly anticipated by locals who have been harvesting and eating them for centuries. Various crab species inhabit the Cayman Islands' wetlands but it is Gecarcinus ruricola, the native land crab, that is most commonly hunted. The spawning (or “washing” as it’s referred to locally) occurs only on certain rainy summer nights.
The popularity of this delicacy and the short harvest season mean that land crab rarely makes it to restaurant menus, where crab from the ocean is plentiful, fresh, and is popular all year round in Grand Cayman restaurants specializing in seafood.
At the venerable Grand Old House, the territory’s oldest and grandest premier beachside restaurant, crab cakes are prepared with horseradish, cucumber compote, arugula salad, and lemon aioli. They have been a staple of the best lunch in Grand Cayman for as long as anyone can remember. Many are the time that an exploration of the desserts menu has to be abandoned on a full stomach thanks to an over-enthusiastic sampling of these seafood appetizers.
Nutritionists recommend eating two portions of fish per week and it’s claimed that crab could be more beneficial to our health than finfish. As a source of dietary protein and minerals, crab meat is hard to beat. While extremely low in saturated fat, it is easily digested and contains as much protein as red meat. It’s also a great source of long-chain Omega-3 polyunsaturated acids, more easily absorbed than the short-chain variety we commonly get from vegetables and oils.
Crab meat contains between 30 and 60 times as much copper as chicken, beef, and most fish. Copper is essential for a healthy immune system and the production of red blood cells. And just 100g of fresh crab also provides more than half an adult human’s requirement of phosphorus, an important mineral for the healthy development of bones.
Other nutritional elements found in crab meat that are essential for our health include immune-boosting selenium and riboflavin (Vitamin B2). With 12 times as much selenium as beef, just 100g of crab more than meets the adult daily requirement of this trace nutritional element vital to our reproductive health and thyroid function.
So, not only does it taste good but crab meat is very, very healthy. And while creative pairings are not something commonly associated with a crab dish, the sweet, flavourful meat is beautifully complemented by some surprising combinations: for example, why not pair a fresh crab dish with something off the after dinner drinks menu, such a dram of fine scotch whisky, perhaps a malty and thick Islay single malt from Grand Old House’s award-winning cellar?
If a fine scotch whisky and crab pairing is not to your taste, maybe try a light red wine, such as an Italian grignolino, with accents of spice and herbs in its bright acidity and tart fruit flavor. Still unconvinced? The Grand Old House cellars have over 2,000 fine wine selections from around the world to choose from.
The next time you find yourself at a fine lunch or dinner table, don’t forget to check out the crab dishes. Unless you are allergic to seafood, the only commonly reported a negative effect of eating crab is flatulence. It is thought that the high level of protein found in crab meat is the culprit. Don’t say you weren’t warned.