Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, is the center of the country’s seafood industry and much of the exported seafood passes through the city from the coast and mangrove forests. Good, cheap seafood is not difficult to find here. The Cangrejada, or crab house, is the Guayaquil equivalent of a Limeñean cebicheria and the ideal place to sample the regions specialties.
The city is rapidly modernizing and gentrifying its downtown area in attempts to lure business travelers and tourists who have come for trips to the Galapagos to stick around for a few days, but you can still find dozens of open air crab houses here and more traditional ones in the surrounding suburbs. While prawns, Tilapia, Red tuna, and other Ecuadorian seafood specialties feature prominently on every cangrejadas menu, cangreja, or crab, is the most common order. Crabs are served in a pot in the middle of the table and every diner has a set of utensils in front of them. Every gets a thick slab and a hammer that you use to crack open the shell right on your table. In some cangrejadas crabs are sold by weight, though the majority serve a standard size. At the end of a meal there is a massive pile of greasy red legs that is looks almost absurd. It is beautifully unsophisticated and a very Guayaquil thing to do, though it’s not something that is ever mentioned in guides or glossies.
New in 2009 was an annual ban on capturing and serving crab from mid-August to mid-September, (it is a molting period when a chemical that can cause intestinal infections is released). Note: some Cangrejadas still serve frozen crab during the ban (allowed), though after three days out of water the crabs tend to lose their flavor and consistency so most turn towards other seafood (octopus, squid, shrimp, etc) and post signs saying “Off season: No crabs.”
Common Cangrejada Menu Items:
-Cangrejo a la Criolla (Creole style crab)
-Cangrejo al Ajillo (Crab with garlic)
-Cangrejo al Pesto (Crab with Pesto)
-Cangrejo Encocado (Crab with coconut sauce)
-Uñas de Cangrejo (breaded and fried crab claws
-Ceviche (Crab, Shrimp, Seabass, Octopus, Oyster, or Octopus) Note: Ecuadorian ceviche generally adds tomato and is served with popcorn.
-Cazuela de Mariscos (Seafood Stew)
Cangrejal de Manny’s: Manny’s is one of the most renowned cangrejadas, which now has three locations spread around Guayaquil.
-Av. Carlos Luis Plaza Dañin 302 & Calle D, Cudadela Kennedy Vieja, Sucursales
-Víctor Emilio Estrada & Higueras, Urdesa Central Avenida Miraflores 112-La Primera, Urbanización Miraflores
-Tel: 593-4-269-1262 / 220-2754
Red Crab: The classiest and most corporate cangrejada chain, Red Crab is the more tourist friendly of Ecuador’s cangrejadas.
-Guayaquil: Urdesa. Av. V.E.Estrada 1205 y Laureles. Tel: 4238-0512
-Samborondón: Km 2.5 Av. Liceo de Francia (Plaza Nova). Tel: 4283-1110
-Quito: Av. Eloy Alfaro 40-369 y Av. Granados. Tel: 2225-3668
-Cuenca:Luis Moreno Mora 3-63 y Francisco Moscoso. Tel: 7288-1134
El Cangrejo Criollo: Rustic but less simple than Manny’s. Restaurants are decorated with sailing paraphernalia.
-Av. 25 de Julio and 9 de Octubre
-La Piazza Shopping Center, premise C-3, km 1
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.