Christmas is really round the corner! While everyone is preparing for the upcoming feast, I want to highlight a Chinese food item that is almost out of season now: Shanghainese Hairy Crab!
Hairy crab, or 大闸蟹 in Mandarin, is a really small burrowing crab that is worth so much because of the creamy roe. Frankly, Singaporeans have been rather slow in picking up this dish, though we can see restaurants like Min Jiang, Pu Tien and even Food Junction (that was last year though) boasting more efforts in promoting them.
Around end November, a family friend brought over a whole live load of these prized crustaceans from Hong Kong, which I literally forsaken exam preparations just to go home for them!
Steaming them at home is really simple as Mom did it to a perfect orange. The classic accompanying dip would be vinegar with diced ginger, and a cup of ginger tea afterwards to balance out the 'coldness' (寒) of the crab.
Just a little trivia: The best hairy crabs hail from YangCheng Lake (阳澄湖) and can cost really expensive these years due to overdemand and limited supply. Producers even micro-chipped tagged them to boast of their authenticity! Though the crabs have been reproduced in Tai Lake (太湖), the flavour is still a tad off from the originals!
Of course, in a restaurant they will provide you with all the useful tools and a pair of gloves for your convenience. But the only thing I need is a set of teeth to slowly break open every bit of its shell and savour the fresh, delicate meat. Takes training and patience!
And according to Mom, how to tell that the hairy crab you ate is considered good: 1. The tiny strands of hair on its legs are close to a golden colour. 2. The whole house brims of the crabby smell after you steamed it! 3. You can't get rid of the stain and smell in your fingernails afterwards, even with toothpaste!
See that white jelly-like substance with traces of orange goo? That's right, the amount of that roe in each crab is what really determines the value! Drizzled with just a bit of vinegar and take it all in with one mouthful..
Sticky, creamy and bursting with rich ol goodness, the taste is quite out of this world and unlike any other crab roe out there. Packed with cholesterol, this is the second most sinful thing next to Foie Gras!
Clearing about a third of those in the fridge by myself, I think I need an awful distance of running to burn them off. When I'm done, its time for next year's batch already!