Go Eat This Now: Salt and Pepper Crab at Yummy Yummy

Crab season is so much better than decorative gourd season.

Salt & Pepper Crab. Photo by Ryan Basso

Everyone has crabs this time of year: crab legs, crab cakes, crab claws, crab back. They can’t get enough of this delicious crustacean.

Northern California’s love for this aquatic delicacy means lists of crab specials have flooded the internet, including Gott’s Roadside’s crab sandwich or Mister Jew’s Dungeness California roll, plus staples like Swan Oyster Depot’s Crab Louie salad. In all the fuss, there’s a crab dish that gets lost in the hurricane. Fiery and sinister, it dwells deep under the radar. Where is this crab, you ask? It’s at everyone’s favorite pho joint.

Although everyone has the spot they claim is the best, many San Franciscans would agree that Yummy Yummy — on Irving Street in the Inner Sunset — has some of the best Vietnamese soup in the city. People travel from all over to try the photái (beef noodle soup) and hu tieu gà (chicken noodle soup). But what Yummy Yummy also has are five different types of sautéed crab, from tamarind-and-curry to beer-and-black-bean-sauce. They’re massive Dungeness crabs that can easily feed two, and if it’s your first visit, you need to try the house special, sautéed salt-and-pepper.

About 15 minutes after ordering, this evil dish arrives at the table, staring me right in the face. The dangerous-looking body sits atop a pile of knuckles, claws, and legs, its exoskeleton dripping with chunks of garlic, chili, onion, and scallion. A plate of food has never looked more like it wants to eat me, but I’m not backing down.

The only way to eat a meal like this is to roll up your sleeves and attack. Crack the shells, finger out the meat, and suck out whatever is left behind. You have to commit. It’s a full-body experience that becomes more of a dance, sending spicy oils and bits of debris flying across the table as pungent hints of onion and garlic balance against the sweet, tender crabmeat. It’s amazing how little goes into preparing this dish and how much flavor comes out of it. Flip over the back, and dip chunks of steamed white rice into the crab’s fatty insides. When there is nothing left but a peppery pile of bones, the battle is won. I like being fancy just as much as the next guy, but sometimes you just need to pull something apart with your hands. Happy crabbing!

Yummy Yummy, 1015 Irving St., 415-566-4722, no website.

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