Mindanao, the Philippines’s second largest island has a veil of mystery draped around her. Feared by the uninformed but loved by those who know her true worth and beauty. This series is my tribute for Mindanao, where I’ve been crisscrossing over the years and where a part of me also comes from. From the looks of it, it is just strange. Cockroach like, red and with thin pincers. Its carapace dotted with ten white spots and fringed with hair. Spanner crabs (or red frog crab, Ranina ranina LAMARCK 1801) or popularly known in Zamboanga City as curacha is indeed a strange crustacean.
I was coming from Zamboanga Sibugay and when I reached Zamboanga City, I went down in Barangay Guiwan. Infront of me was the barangay market, Aderes, and, wanting to see if they have curachas, I went inside to take a look. Fortunately, there were piles and piles of spanner crabs of different sizes and are being sold from P300 – P400 pesos per kilo!
Contrary to popular knowledge or just due to poor research, many write ups, from print articles to blog posts keep on perpetuating the myth that the curacha is only found in the deep waters off Zamboanga City. Far from the truth. In fact, spanner crabs are indo-australian crabs that have a wide range that even reaches Australia!
It just so happens that Zamboanga has popularized this type of crab, even if it is also found in other parts of the Philippines. Alavar’s Restaurant, a very popular place here is even associated with its curacha dish with special Alavar’s sauce that its a must visit place for visitors.
The curacha has become a Zamboanga icon and it is best eaten either steamed or boiled or at Alavar’s Restaurant topped with their special sauce. It is found in most markets around Zamboanga City and restaurants usually have it either fresh or frozen.