Submitted by Adrienne Matei
Aji Ichiban dried crabs are a beer snack, but I don’t have any beer; I just a have persistent appetite that some nights leads me to smear peanut butter on a granny smith apple. But tonight, on the stoop of my bungalow in Bali, finds me ripping open a plastic package of Aji Ichiban Dried Crabs I impulsively bought at the Hong Kong airport. The crabs look uncomfortably close in their bag, the way crabs sometimes do stacked all over each other in the grocery store tank, or when the Discovery Channel shows them migrating in droves over the ocean floor, a crab exodus crawling three layers of crab deep. The kind of thing that makes you uneasy when you’re treading water and are suddenly unnerved that you never know what’s beneath you in the ocean. Cut scene to a billion writhing crabs and your vulnerable, pedaling legs. But these crabs are tiny and an apricot-y pink, and covered in little puffballs that look like Rice Krispies, but the ingredient list informs me are made of wheat. They’re sort of cute and pitiful, and something about that makes me want to eat them. The package contains many disembodied appendages, but some of the crabs are perfect little specimens. I pop one in my mouth and the crunch is inevitable. What’s unpredictable is its immediate transcendence into caramel-y chew, then, just as suddenly, a not unpleasantly gritty, sandy texture. The caramel effect is compounded by the crabs’ tremendous sweetness—they’re honeyed, and more like candy than the salty snack I expected. I imagine them in paper wrappers arranged in a heart-shaped box. I imagine them laying billows of little crab eggs. I imagine my teeth crumpling the insubstantial shells nature intended to protect their soft, chewy innards. A mosquito coil smolders beside me and toads bark in the tropical night. I wish I had a beer. In the morning, the crabs are swarming with a billion tiny ants.