As any trueborn son of Maryland can tell you, crab is no laughing matter. There are tons of different kinds of crabs we eat -- blue, Alaskan king, snow, stone, Dungeness -- and just as many different preparations for crab meat. Sure, sometimes you just crack them open and eat them (this is the entire principle behind the popularity of crab feasts and the reason people love crab legs). Still, you can also use the sweet, delicious crab insides for other dishes requiring a more complex preparation.
The most obvious one is a dish you've doubtless heard of and most likely tried: crab cakes. But that's not the only one even in the same family of dishes -- there's also the similarly prepared deviled crab. So, what's the difference between these two crustacean meals? There are several, but they all result from the same origin point: How you're supposed to eat them.
The Two Look The Same, But They're Pretty Different
Crab cakes (sometimes called Maryland crab cakes or Baltimore crab cakes because that's where they're most associated with) are pretty simple: A mixture of lump blue crab meat, bread crumbs, mayonnaise, eggs, and either mustard or mustard powder, combined with various seasonings (which ones depends on the recipe), then baked. They're wildly popular in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., but they're also commonly eaten pretty much anywhere in America there's a coastline.
Deviled crab, meanwhile, looks pretty similar at first appearance. This Tampa, Florida foodstuff starts with lump blue crab meat and heads toward a croquette. First, the meat is sauteed with a sauce made of tomatoes, onions, and peppers. The liquid gets largely cooked out; then, the resulting mixture gets rolled in bread crumbs and fried. The result (thanks mainly to the bread crumbs) is something similar to a crab cake but much denser and typically spicier.
Why Are Deviled Crabs The Way They Are?
There's a simple reason these two similar but distinct dishes diverge in how they're cooked: you're not supposed to eat them the same way. Maryland crab cakes are a sit-down meal, something you eat with a knife and fork; sure, crab cake sandwiches exist, and those are the exception, but you're not just going to be wandering around with a loose crab cake in your hands. That's precisely how you're supposed to eat deviled crab, though: They're intended as finger food.
We don't exactly know which ethnic community first cooked Maryland crab cakes, but we do with deviled crabs: They're a creation of a mixture of Spanish, Italian, and Cuban influences in a part of Tampa known as Ybor City (hence why they're traditionally made with bread crumbs from stale Cuban bread). The point was an appetizer you could eat on the go, a seafood-based street food all Tampa's own.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.