Sunday, October 28, 2012


Tanks of crabs in shop
The Hairy Crab Season has arrived in Shanghai. Ever since arriving here, seven months ago, I have been hearing about this delicacy. They are in season through October and November, and people go crazy for them. Shops open up selling only hairy crabs. People sell them from buckets in the street, and it seems that every restaurant you go into is selling them. There is no getting away from the hairy crabs.

Market seller
 Believe it or not there are even "fake" crabs for sale. Fake in the sense that they are tagged with fake tags stating they are from the best crab areas. This must be the silliest fake I have heard of here, apart from maybe the fake IKEA store which looked exactly like the IKEA we know and love, except the furniture was all pre built to look exactly like the original. Now anyone who has struggled with assembly of any flat packs I'm sure would welcome this, fake or not.

Knowing that it was only a matter of time before we were either, invited out to eat these little crustaceans, or gifted some, I though I should find out as much as I could about the cooking and eating of them. From what I could see there would be very little to eat as they are not big.

If you are wondering why they are called hairy crabs, it is because there is hair in the claws and legs. Unfortunately you can't see this in the photographs.

My language teacher kindly brought in a video of what to do. I learned all the appropriate lingo and watched with care. 

Hairy Crabs
 As I had thought, there is not a lot of eating in a hairy crab. In fact the Chinese suck the roe, and sorry to say the sperm from the bodies, as that is all that is left once the heart, intestine and gills are removed. The heart was a big no no, on no account should we eat this. I know, the thought of it made me feel quite ill too. I made sure I could tell the sex of the crab, I could probably manage a bit of roe.

 Hope you are staying with me!

Well the day came. My husband texted me on the way home from work to say he had "the crabs" My did we titter! Anyway, a very kind colleague had gifted us a bag of crabs. So now I would have to put my knowledge, and my stomach to the test.

Crabs arrived in a very nice weaved parcel. Inside were eight crabs.

So I set about preparing them. I put the water on to boil. I had been told to add beer and ginger to it to give more flavour. Who am I to argue? I put the crabs into the steaming basket, popped on the lid, placed the basket on top of the boiling water and waited for them to turn pink. 

Ready for the pot
In 12 minutes they were looking ready to eat. Nice and pink.
I carefully removed them from the steamer and cut away the string. I placed them on a board with the mixture of back vinegar and grated ginger sauce for dipping.

Prepared for eating
As you can now probably see from the picture they are not so big. Not quite as big as my hand. The claws were about the size of the top of my thumb, and from what I was thinking there wasn't going to much meat in there.

So finally my thought on Hairy Crab. Sorry, but I have to be honest and say there was way too much effort for too little return. Give me a nice, sweet, large  Dungeness crab any day. At least there is nice chunks of crab to eat, not just a lot of sucking out little pieces. 

I am happy to have had the experience, but won't be rushing to do it again.

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