This sauce—what my family simply calls “geh sauce,” or “crab sauce” in Korean—is inspired by doenjang-jjigae, a seafood-and-beef stew built on fermented soybean paste doenjang. In it, iron-y, browned bits of beef gives creamy, flaked crab an unprecedented savoriness; the crab a lingering, crustaceous sweetness to the beef.
My family’s take is at once funky, salty, spicy, and sweet thanks to an eye-watering amount of alliums, and both doenjang and fermented pepper paste gochujang. Armed with these two—plus the crab’s natural salinity—you’ll find that the sauce does just fine without the addition of salt (and, will have all your guests asking for a second, third bowl of rice, lest a drop go to waste).
Snow crabs are close relatives of King crabs, but more affordable and reliably found frozen in the seafood aisle (if all you can find are blue crabs, those will also work, but are much less meaty). There’s no need to thaw the frozen legs here—simply rinse them in cold water before tossing straight into the pot.
3 to 4
neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed
Heat the oil in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, sauté the ground beef until just cooked through, about 2 minutes.
Add the sliced onions and cook until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
Add in the doenjang and gochujang, stirring to combine well. Cook, stirring frequently, until the pan's contents start to stick to the bottom and caramelize, about 2-4 minutes.
Deglaze with the water, scraping the bottom of the pan to pick up the browned bits. Add the crab legs and black pepper, cover with a lid, and bring the sauce to a steady simmer. Once simmering, reduce the heat to low, and gently simmer for 15 minutes, making sure that the crab legs are evenly submerged.
Transfer the crab legs to a plate, and finish with the sauce. Shower with the scallions, and serve with bowls of steamed rice.