Hairy crab has been a popular topic among my group of friends since the beginning of September. Hairy Crabs? I had never heard of them! Were they the same as the succulent Deadliest Catch crabs I was used to in the States? Not even close…
These are lake crabs, harvested along the Yangtze River delta and the eastern Chinese coastline. These delicate little crabs actually do have hair on them! A muff (yes, muff) covers the outside of the claws while whiskers shoot out of each leg, hence the name “Hairy Crab!” And the legs…well, they are about as fat as my pinky so it is not the legs or claw meat you are really after…it’s the roe. Roe is… well, it’s the Sperm and Eggs of the crab. Quite the delicacy!
In early September millions of crabs crawl to the river where the cold winds chill the river and where the fresh and salty waters meet. The chill signals the crabs to move less, bulk up with fat, and more importantly, to produce roe. There is a difference between the “boy” crabs and the “girl” crabs. The Boys are much creamier in texture than the Girls. The girls’ roe is more compact. But it is your preference, and if it’s your first time, I suggest trying one of each.
So here we are. Our first experience of the season and my husband and I have no clue how to eat these little suckers. True Hairy Crab aficionados can finish a crab in about 20 minutes. Let’s just say it took me about 45 minutes to dissect and suck each morsel out of mine… but I was told I did pretty good for my “first time!” And by the second crab…well, I had moved up to Novice!
How to Eat a Hairy Crab
Warning- this is not for vegetarians or people who are easily sickened by eating exotic foods…
Step 1. Meet Harry. Let him know that you will thoroughly be enjoying him tonight.
Step 2. Remove the claws and legs and put them aside, you will dig into those later.
Step 3. The crab’s underbelly has a little lip that you need to rip off. Do it and suck the roe…(making the “mmmmm” sound at this point is good!).
Step 4. Now you need to basically remove the crab’s top half from its bottom half. Carefully separate the two pieces… Do you see the top half and all of that creamy roe? Well, that’s the stuff baby! First you need to remove the lungs, but the rest is yours to add your special sauce, stir around and get all of the yummy bits. The top half of the crab actually acts as your bowl.
Step 5. Once you have devoured most of the roe, it is time to remove… well, the crab’s face. Because there is more roe in under its head…and again, you suck it out. Ok, you are now done with the top half! Now to move onto the bottom half.
Read more from Jessica about her culinary and travel adventures on her blog, American Girl in Hong Kong!