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This Hole-in-the-Wall Life

Crickets, tripe, the occasional brain burrito: I'll devour most anything, damn the grossness factor. But nothing will ever again simultaneously sicken and please me like the Dungeness crab at CAJUN CORNER.

I've always enjoyed crab's light taste and flaky texture but shied away from ordering it whole. The thought of scooping and slurping a crab directly from its exoskeleton is revolting—like most Americans, it's difficult for me to stomach any reminders that meat isn't born a fillet but originates from real animals. But friends raved about Cajun Corner, an only-in-Orange-County combination of Cajun cuisine, Vietnamese owners and a hip-hop soundtrack. They promised its superlative crab would cure my phobia for good.

Cajun Corner is the latest in a rash of Little Saigon restaurants that attract mostly young Vietnamese looking for Louisiana seafood favorites like crab and crawfish, beer, and a messy dinner—bibs and butcher paper on your table at Cajun Corner are gospel.

Cajun Corner's MySpace page promises alligator meat in the future, and I definitely enjoyed their gumbo, a heavy soup of beaucoup vegetables and plump sausage slices. But the crab beckoned, and a pleasant waitress delivered it in a plastic bag about 15 minutes after I ordered it. The bag's moist, wrinkled appearance and dark-red tint suggested it housed a botched organ transplant, but the color came from the copious amounts of chunky rub that covered the crab, two corns on the cob and some sausage links. I nibbled on the corn and sausages first, slowly savoring their succulence, trying to delay the crab cracking as long as possible.

The time of reckoning finally arrived, and I pulled the crab from the bag, pincer in hand. It was massive, red—dead. I yanked each crab leg from its socket and squeezed them with the pincer. The exoskeleton easily shattered, revealing pale, tender meat. I ran the meat through the chile inside the bag and dunked it into a garlic-mayo condiment and hellacious chili powder.

"This isn't that bad," I thought, after I finished the final leg. Next came the crab's body, and I pried it open with the brute force of my fingers. A puddle of butter splashed onto the table; something that looked like gills awaited inside. Fatty deposits lined the shell. Gross. I'm not sure if they were edible—my best friend says it's the best part—but I hunted down the waitress, paid my bill and got the hell out. And then I returned the next day—this time leaving the shell on.



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