Portunus pelagicus
Also called: Sand crab, blue manna crab

We went to The Entrance (where lake meets ocean) for Easter and we did the obligatory hiring a boat, fishing and then throwing all the fish back because they were too small. But this time, I caught something on my fishing rod that was the right size - still, it got thrown back.

The blue swimmer crab is quite aggressive, as crabs go.

All ten limbs were flailing wildly, not so much in fear, but in an effort to hit, kick, grab, bite, pinch, scratch or in anyway afflict some degree of damage upon his predators. Not only his tasty, long, delicate nippers, but also the eight legs, of which the last pair have evolved into paddles, which help the crab to swim.

The Entrance is about 100 km (60 miles) north of Sydney. The blue swimmer crab is found in coastal waters, all around Australia, north of the Victorian border.

He was beautiful. Any good seafood supplier in Australia will have blue swimmers in their inventory. Often they are dead (see above re:aggression) and wrapped in plastic. They range in colour from dark brown through to purple and blue mottling. This lively specimen was metallic blue, almost fluorescent.

We were not compelled to throw him back by law. His carapace was over 10 cm (4 inches) wide, and the legal minimum size is 6 cm. You also have to throw a blue swimmer back if the crab is a female carrying eggs.

Had we taken him home, this is the simple, yet very tasty method I would have used to cook him:

NB. To cook live crustaceans, place them in the freezer for about an hour (make sure that the crab is 'asleep', but that the flesh is not frozen) to numb their senses before putting them in boiling water. Good luck getting a blue swimmer into a freezer!

  • Fill a large saucepan - big enough to fit the crab(s), with water.
  • Add a whole onion, skin and all, cut in half.
  • Add two garlic cloves.
  • Bring the water to the boil.
  • Add the crab and boil for no more than 5-7 minutes.

The crab can be served hot immediately, or allowed to cool. But try to serve the same day. Fresher is better with seafood, more so than with any other type of food.

It is amazing how the flavours permeate through the flesh of the crab. This recipe is suitable for any crab or crustacean - but do your self a flavour, and try it with blue swimmers. It is also great to change the flavouring, but the key to success is minimum preparation. Things to try include: ginger, unpeeled; shallots; chilli; leek; capsicum, cut in half with seeds; any fresh herbs, strongly recommend dill though; lime cut in half, unpeeled; anything else you think might be interesting.


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