Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Shanghai hairy crab


hzrt8w
 Share

Recommended Posts

Around the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival (Mooncake Festival) is Shanghai Hairy Crab season.

I haven't seen any hairy crab in the Asian markets in the USA. Has anybody? Are they banned for imports?

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ah Leung - sadly, they are indeed banned for importation into the US as of a few years ago as they are considered an invasive species and have taken over several waterways in CA. :(

However, you can find these being sold (supposedly) in SF or possibly Sacramento from 'off-the-street' vendors and caught from local waters - since I also live in the Bay Area, I DEARLY would love to know if you find any place or market area that does carry them.

Do let me/us know if you find such a place! :)

Good luck - JH

Edited by jhirshon (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My aunt is a restaurant owner - and said that they are banned from importation in Canada due to their invasive tendencies (as noted by jhirshon) and parasites in the 'hair' of the crabs.

The penalties are pretty heavy duty - and I have never ever seen them for sale anywhere. Not even even frozen or pre-cooked - let alone live.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes we should do our part. Too bad the locals don't catch them to sell to the market. They are quite tasty. But perhaps what we have in US soil are not edible?

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mitsuwa brings in cooked Hairy crab from Hokkaido every September.-Dick

Those should be very different, although the season seems around the same. Hokkaido hairy crabs are sea crabs, different colour, size and look from the Chinese hairy crab. In my own please-don't-flame-me opinion, the Hokkaido crabs are far better. Certainly the crab I had at Ye Shanghai in Hong Kong, if it can be considered at all representative, was not a good introduction (and it's an overrated restaurant, by the way). Cost me HK$400, and it was SO ordinary. That's the equivalent of 6,000 yen, for which in Japan you can expect (and demand) excellence.

There's a photo of Japanese hairy crab in this Tsukiji thread:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=94730

Scroll down to about photo no. 17 or 18 - you'll know it when you see it. Maybe someone can post a link to Chinese hairy crab photos for comparison. Shouldn't be hard to find in Google though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Around the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival (Mooncake Festival) is Shanghai Hairy Crab season.

I haven't seen any hairy crab in the Asian markets in the USA.  Has anybody?  Are they banned for imports?

I haven't seen them on sale in California but I do know that they are considered an invasive species. Apparently they've take up residence in the California Delta area and are causing damage to the dikes due to their burrowing habits. However, it's illegal to catch and sell them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

When I was in Hong Kong a few weeks ago, Shanghai hairy crabs were in season (which is around October-November I think?). Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to have a meal on hairy crabs.

On the street of Tsim Sha Tsui, I saw stores selling live hairy crabs at HKD 200 to HKD 300 each (all kept in refrigerators). That's just the consumer's retail price. When eating in restaurants, the price of cooked hairy crabs is, predictably, higher (unless you catch some promotional specials).

I read a commentary on openrice.com that somebody went to Farm House in Causeway (that restaurant that I have been to) and ordered hairy crabs. Farm House was selling the crab at HKD 650 each (which is like almost US$100).

I haven't had hairy crabs for a long time. Memory serves me... that these crabs are tasty... but... spending US$100 to eat one small hairy crab? A crab would not weigh more than 1/3lb - 1/2lb. One can spend US$200 or so to have a cooked King Crab (US$19.95/lb x 10lb)... and it can feed 6 to 7 people. But instead, US$200 for 2 small hairy crabs to feed 2?

US$100 for a small crab, that kind of price would put hairy crab above abalone and shark fin on the scale of expensive Chinese food items. Do you think they are really worth that price tag? Am I off base?

Also... if hairy crabs can be sold at such a high price, can't someone farm-raise them and make a fortune?

I quote from the following webpage:

http://www.openrice.com/restaurant/sr2.htm..._id=&dishes_id=

crazyeatinglover(非會員)    日期: 2007 年 07 月 23 日 

"Yellow Oil Crab"

Very "Lay PO".Reserved 4 yellow oil crabs for Mother's b-day dinner. Two is good, one is borderline and the other one was "dead".How could we tell? the "yellow stuff" is not yellow but in dark brown. Waiter opened the crabs for us and he seems to purposely give the "dead crab" to the youngest of the family, hoping that the youngest one will not notice that it's dead! Dad noticed of course and took up the dead crab. Manager quickly took away the crab but no apology at all. It's $650 per crab, i.e. double the price of a normal restaurant. Bad servce-waiter should not have served to the customer. Ordered a "Lo mein" using "Thick noodle" but gave "Yee mein". For this price, i would never go to this "Lay Po" restaurant again!

是次每人消費約$900元

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Prices have been getting out of hand in Hong Kong. My parents still talks about what a great deal they got on a fish of some sort for having only paid HK$800 (US$100) for it. We're talking about a fish that's less than 2 lbs. They thought it was a steal because they've seen the same fish serve elsewhere for HK$2000.

Personally, I don't understand it.

Also, a warning about hairy crabs. In China, there is a special place here the crabs are the best. In order to sell them for top dollars, some folks actually take crabs from elsewhere, dump them into the water at this place and fish them out after a few days, claiming the crabs are from there. Buyers be warned!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh dear, you missed out on hairy crabs. Can you get them in the States? I'd expect they'd be even more expensive.

I love hairy crabs but don't eat them that often, mostly because they are so expensive in restaurants. The best are said to come from Yang Cheng Lake. But as annachan says, there's a counterfeit industry of hairy crabs that are just given a brief "baptism" in the lake. Even things like laser printing on the claws and special bands with an ID number on it don't discourage the counterfeiters - they put the same things on the "fake" crabs.

The best way to eat the crabs, in my opinion, is to get together with a group of friends and buy a whole or half basket of them from a trusted vendor. That way you can have as many of them as you want without worrying as much about the price (it's still expensive but not as much as it would be eating that many in a restaurant). No, that's not true - that's the best way to do it in Hong Kong. I was lucky enough to be in Shanghai once during hairy crab season and they were so cheap in restaurants - we were able to order crab roe dishes (somebody did all the work for us!) at really inexpensive prices. It was heaven.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks anna and aprilmei. I am still puzzled at this phenomeon.

Hairy crabs are inexpensive in Shanghai, but why would they be so expensive in Hong Kong? Hong Kong imports many food items from China and we don't see rice grains or choy sum get tripled the price due to transportation. So what makes the price?

Also, to me it seems that cooking hairy crabs would hardly takes any "see fu" (wokmanship - yes "wok"). I mean... who can't handle steaming a crab? So what can set a restaurant to get such a high profit margin while most other dishes they offer are under high competitive pressure (e.g. I had a Peking Duck special for HKD 60 and many dinner specials).

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure why they're so expensive in restaurants because yes, you're right, they're very simple to make. They just have to be steamed (belly up so the "roe" doesn't escape) then served with brown vinegar with shredded ginger. The traditional accompaniment is warmed rice wine with dried plum (to cut the awful taste of the rice wine although I once had them with aged rice wine that was almost as rich as sherry) and then "tea" made with lots of fresh ginger and rock sugar to taste. Not difficult at all - and usually the hairy crab vendor sells all the stuff so you can buy everything at one place.

I wonder if they're expensive in restaurants because the diner takes so much time eating them - it ties up the table for at least 30 minutes per crab (sometimes longer), and in the meantime, the diner isn't ordering anything else. Also the ceremony of presenting the crab whole and then the waiter/waitress will separate the shells for you. Me, I'd rather have less ceremony and more crabs. I don't know why more people (including myself) don't cook them at home more often - I even have all the implements.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I read a commentary on openrice.com that somebody went to Farm House in Causeway (that restaurant that I have been to) and ordered hairy crabs.  Farm House was selling the crab at HKD 650 each (which is like almost US$100). 

I quote from the following webpage:

http://www.openrice.com/restaurant/sr2.htm..._id=&dishes_id=

crazyeatinglover(非會員)    日期: 2007 年 07 月 23 日 

"Yellow Oil Crab"

Very "Lay PO".Reserved 4 yellow oil crabs for Mother's b-day dinner. Two is good, one is borderline and the other one was "dead".How could we tell? the "yellow stuff" is not yellow but in dark brown. Waiter opened the crabs for us and he seems to purposely give the "dead crab" to the youngest of the family, hoping that the youngest one will not notice that it's dead! Dad noticed of course and took up the dead crab. Manager quickly took away the crab but no apology at all. It's $650 per crab, i.e. double the price of a normal restaurant. Bad servce-waiter should not have served to the customer. Ordered a "Lo mein" using "Thick noodle" but gave "Yee mein". For this price, i would never go to this "Lay Po" restaurant again!

是次每人消費約$900元

Hi Ah Leung,

"Crazyeatinglover" is referring not to the Shanghainese hairy crab ("tai chap hai") but to a group of delinquent Pearl River delta crabs. He or she is referring to a group of badly behaved jenny crabs which the Cantonese refer to as "wong yau hai" or "yellow oil crab" who get that way (ie. turn yellow) ostensibly because they stay out in the sun too long. Well thick carapace notwithstanding, apparently these crabs get their liver or roe or whatever zapped by an overdose of ultraviolet rays with the result that a yellowish "oil?" (anyway some kind of yellow pigmentation) infuses into the entire flesh of these wayward jennies. In Hong Kong (gourmand capital of China) these quirky coloured rarities command a hefty premium over all other crabs including the already impressively priced Shanghainese hairy crab

Is the "wong yau hai" worth its price? Well I would put it this way - they're like white truffles - one can't eat them every day (not only because of its astronomical cost but also because of ephemeral supply). To the crab cognoscenti in Hong Kong it is an annual ritual to be relished like white truffles. To the uninitiated, it is the surest way of getting a heart attack from sticker shock. These crabs seem to be export-proof (I have not seen them on any other menus outside Hong Kong and China) presumably because its price point quite effectively chokes off demand.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh, I missed the initial post about yellow oil crabs. Yes, they're entirely different from hairy crabs. Yellow oil crabs are larger and completely filled with roe. They're only available for a brief period in the hottest days of summer. The crabs are sunburnt which causes the roe to flood the body.

And unlike hairy crabs, which can be either male or female (I prefer the males), yellow oil crabs are always female. They're much more expensive than hairy crabs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you CommissionerLin and aprilmei. I didn't realize "Wong Yau Hai" is a different species than hairy crab. That seems to make sense. Still a very high price item to me, but it makes sense why people would pay that price to eat it. :smile:

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had Hairy Crab 2 Novembers ago in Hong Kong at a restaurant specializing in Shanghai cuisine for my birthday - the restaurant was Wu Kong.

The crab, while small, was absolutely the most succulent I've ever eaten and the roe was to die for - expensive, sure.

Worth it - every penny, at least to me. :)

Cheers, JH

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Similar Content

    • By liuzhou
      Sea fish in my local supermarket
       
       
      In the past I've started a few topics focusing on categorised food types I find in China. I’ve done
       
      Mushrooms and Fungi in China
       
      Chinese Vegetables Illustrated
       
      Sugar in China
       
      Chinese Herbs and Spices
       
      Chinese Pickles and Preserves
       
      Chinese Hams.
       
      I’ve enjoyed doing them as I learn a lot and I hope that some people find them useful or just interesting.
       
      One I’ve always resisted doing is Fish etc in China. Although it’s interesting and I love fish, it just felt too complicated. A lot of the fish and other marine animals I see here, I can’t identify, even if I know the local name. The same species may have different names in different supermarkets or wet markets. And, as everywhere, a lot of fish is simply mislabelled, either out of ignorance or plain fraud.
       
      However, I’ve decided to give it a go.
       
      I read that 60% of fish consumed in China is freshwater fish. I doubt that figure refers to fresh fish though. In most of China only freshwater fish is available. Seawater fish doesn’t travel very far inland. It is becoming more available as infrastructure improves, but it’s still low. Dried seawater fish is used, but only in small quantities as is frozen food in general. I live near enough the sea to get fresh sea fish, but 20 years ago when I lived in Hunan I never saw it. Having been brought up yards from the sea, I sorely missed it.
       
      I’ll start with the freshwater fish. Today, much of this is farmed, but traditionally came from lakes and rivers, as much still does. Most villages in the rural parts have their village fish pond. By far the most popular fish are the various members of the carp family with 草鱼 (cǎo yú) - Ctenopharyngodon idella - Grass Carp being the most raised and consumed. These (and the other freshwater fish) are normally sold live and every supermarket, market (and often restaurants) has ranks of tanks holding them.
       

      Supermarket Freshwater Fish Tanks

      You point at the one you want and the server nets it out. In markets, super or not, you can either take it away still wriggling or, if you are squeamish, the server will kill, descale and gut it for you. In restaurants, the staff often display the live fish to the table before cooking it.
       
      These are either steamed with aromatics – garlic, ginger, scallions and coriander leaf / cilantro being common – or braised in a spicy sauce or, less often, a sweet and sour sauce or they are simply fried. It largely depends on the region.
       
      Note that, in China, nearly all fish is served head on and on-the-bone.
       

      草鱼 (cǎo yú) - Ctenopharyngodon idella - grass carp
       
      More tomorrow.
    • By liuzhou
      Big Plate Chicken - 大盘鸡 (dà pán jī)
       

       
      This very filling dish of chicken and potato stew is from Xinjiang province in China's far west, although it is said to have been invented by a visitor from Sichuan. In recent years, it has become popular in cities across China, where it is made using a whole chicken which is chopped, with skin and on the bone, into small pieces suitable for easy chopstick handling. If you want to go that way, any Asian market should be able to chop the bird for you. Otherwise you may use boneless chicken thighs instead.

      Ingredients

      Chicken chopped on the bone or Boneless skinless chicken thighs  6

      Light soy sauce

      Dark soy sauce

      Shaoxing wine

      Cornstarch or similar. I use potato starch.

      Vegetable oil (not olive oil)

      Star anise, 4

      Cinnamon, 1 stick

      Bay leaves, 5 or 6

      Fresh ginger, 6 coin sized slices

      Garlic.  5 cloves, roughly chopped

      Sichuan peppercorns,  1 tablespoon

      Whole dried red chillies,   6 -10  (optional). If you can source the Sichuan chiles known as Facing Heaven Chiles, so much the better.

      Potatoes 2 or 3 medium sized. peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

      Carrot. 1,  thinly sliced

      Dried wheat noodles.  8 oz. Traditionally, these would be a long, flat thick variety. I've use Italian tagliatelle successfully.    

      Red bell pepper. 1 cut into chunks

      Green bell pepper, 1 cut into chunks

      Salt

      Scallion, 2 sliced.
         
      Method

      First, cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and marinate in 1½ teaspoons light soy sauce, 3 teaspoons of Shaoxing and 1½ teaspoons of cornstarch. Set aside for about twenty minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

      Heat the wok and add three tablespoons cooking oil. Add the ginger, garlic, star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, Sichuan peppercorns and chilies. Fry on a low heat for a  minute or so. If they look about to burn, splash a little water into your wok. This will lower the temperature slightly. Add the chicken and turn up the heat. Continue frying until the meat is nicely seared, then add the potatoes and carrots. Stir fry a minute more then add 2 teaspoons of the dark soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of the light soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of the Shaoxing wine along with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium. Cover and cook for around 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are done.

      While the main dish is cooking, cook the noodles separately according to the packet instructions.  Reserve  some of the noodle cooking water and drain.

      When the chicken and potatoes are done, you may add a little of the noodle water if the dish appears on the dry side. It should be saucy, but not soupy. Add the bell peppers and cook for three to four minutes more. Add scallions. Check seasoning and add some salt if it needs it. It may not due to the soy sauce and, if in the USA, Shaoxing wine.

      Serve on a large plate for everyone to help themselves from. Plate the noodles first, then cover with the meat and potato. Enjoy.
       
    • By liuzhou
      Way back in the 1990’s, I was living in west Hunan, a truly beautiful part of China. One day, some colleagues suggested we all go for lunch the next day, a Saturday. Seemed reasonable to me. I like a bit of lunch.
       
      “OK. We’ll pick you up at 7 am.”
       
      “Excuse me? 7 am for lunch?
       
      “Yes. We have to go by car.”
       
      Well, of course, they finally picked me up at 8.30, drove in circles for an hour trying to find the guy who knew the way, then headed off into the wilds of Hunan. We drove for hours, but the scenery was beautiful, and the thousand foot drops at the side of the crash barrier free road as we headed up the mountains certainly kept me awake.
       
      After an eternity of bad driving along hair-raising roads which had this old atheist praying, we stopped at a run down shack in the middle of nowhere. I assumed that this was a temporary stop because the driver needed to cop a urination or something, but no. This was our lunch venue.
       
      We shuffled into one of the two rooms the shack consisted of and I distinctly remember that one of my hosts took charge of the lunch ordering process.
       
      “We want lunch for eight.” There was no menu.
       
      The waitress, who was also the cook, scuttled away to the other room of the shack which was apparently a kitchen.
       
      We sat there for a while discussing the shocking rise in bean sprout prices and other matters of national importance, then the first dish turned up. A pile of steaming hot meat surrounded by steaming hot chillies. It was delicious.
       
      “What is this meat?” I asked.
       
      About half of the party spoke some English, but my Chinese was even worse than it is now, so communications weren’t all they could be. There was a brief (by Chinese standards) meeting and they announced:
       
      “It’s wild animal.”
       
      Over the next hour or so, several other dishes arrived. They were all piles of steaming hot meat surrounded by steaming hot chillies, but the sauces and vegetable accompaniments varied. And all were very, very good indeed.
       
      “What’s this one?” I ventured.
       
      “A different wild animal.”
       
      “And this?”
       
      “Another wild animal.”
       
      “And this?”
       
      “A wild animal which is not the wild animal in the other dishes”
       
      I wandered off to the kitchen, as you can do in rural Chinese restaurants, and inspected the contents of their larder, fridge, etc. No clues.
       
      I returned to the table with a bit of an idea.
       
      “Please write down the Chinese names of all these animals we have eaten. I will look in my dictionary when I get home.”
       
      They looked at each other, consulted, argued and finally announced:
       
      “Sorry! We don’t know in Chinese either. “
       
      Whether that was true or just a way to get out of telling me what I had eaten, I’ll never know. I certainly wouldn’t be able to find the restaurant again.
       
      This all took place way back in the days before digital cameras, so I have no illustrations from that particular meal. But I’m guessing one of the dishes was bamboo rat.
       
      No pandas or tigers were injured in the making of this post
       
    • By liuzhou
      Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic.
       
      The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and led us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is  a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large".
       
      We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong.
       
      The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
       
      By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.
       

       

       
      This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
       
      Then into lunch:
       

       

      Chicken Soup
       

      The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato
       

      Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.
       

      Stir fried lotus root
       

      Daikon Radish
       

      Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.
       

      Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable
       

      Fried Beans
       

      Steamed Pumpkin
       

      Chicken
       

      Beef with Bitter Melon
       

      Glutinous (Sticky) Rice
       

      Oranges
       

      The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known for the quality of its pomelos.
       
      After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.
       

       

       

       

       
      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.
       

       
      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
       

       
      And here they are:
       
       
      After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
       
       
    • By liuzhou
      It sometimes seems likes every town in China has its own special take on noodles. Here in Liuzhou, Guangxi the local dish is Luosifen (螺蛳粉 luó sī fěn).
       
      It is a dish of rice noodles served in a very spicy stock made from the local river snails and pig bones which are stewed for hours with black cardamom, fennel seed, dried tangerine peel, cassia bark, cloves, pepper, bay leaf, licorice root, sand ginger, and star anise. Various pickled vegetables, dried tofu skin, fresh green vegetables, peanuts and loads of chilli are then usually added. Few restaurants ever reveal their precise recipe, so this is tentative. Luosifen is only really eaten in small restaurants and roadside stalls. I've never heard of anyone making it at home.
       
      In order to promote tourism to the city, the local government organised a food festival featuring an event named "10,000 people eat luosifen together." (In Chinese 10,000 often just means "many".)
       
      10,000 people (or a lot of people anyway) gathered at Liuzhou International Convention and Exhibition Centre for the grand Liuzhou luosifen eat-in. Well, they gathered in front of the centre – the actual centre is a bleak, unfinished, deserted shell of a building. I disguised myself as a noodle and joined them. 10,001.
       

       
      The vast majority of the 10,000 were students from the local colleges who patiently and happily lined up to be seated. Hey, mix students and free food – of course they are happy.
       

       
      Each table was equipped with a basket containing bottled water, a thermos flask of hot water, paper bowls, tissues etc. And most importantly, a bunch of Luosifen caps. These read “万人同品螺蛳粉” which means “10,000 people together enjoy luosifen”
       

       
      Yep, that is the soup pot! 15 meters in diameter and holding eleven tons of stock. Full of snails and pork bones, spices etc. Chefs delicately added ingredients to achieve the precise, subtle taste required.
       

       
      Noodles were distributed, soup added and dried ingredients incorporated then there was the sound of 10,000 people slurping.
       

      Surrounding the luosifen eating area were several stalls selling different goodies. Lamb kebabs (羊肉串) seemed most popular, but there was all sorts of food. Here are few of the delights on offer.
       

      Whole roast lamb or roast chicken
       

      Lamb Kebabs
       

      Kebab spice mix – Cumin, chilli powder, salt and MSG
       

      Kebab stall
       

      Crab
       

      Different crab
       

      Sweet sticky rice balls
       

      Things on sticks
       

      Grilled scorpions
       

      Pig bones and bits
       

      Snails
       
      And much more.
       
      To be honest, it wasn’t the best luosifen I’ve ever eaten, but it was wasn’t the worst. Especially when you consider the number they were catering for. But it was a lot of fun. Which was the point.
       
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...