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Oct 8, 2006 11:32 PM

Tiny crabs in my clams - WTF?? [moved from Home Cooking]

I was at dinner last night at a somewhat respectable California-Cuisine-type restaurant, and my fish dish was accompanied by 4 steamed clams - all of which had at least 1-2 tiny dead crabs embedded in the flesh.

I grew up clamming in the Northwest, and I never saw anything like this. I read that this sometimes happens, but is is acceptable to serve them like this? Also, it's unclear if the clam ate the crab, or if the crab was eating the clam. Either way, the waiter took them away with no other explanaton except "the chef says it's ok, but I will remove them." No offer of any other side dish was made.
How often does this happen, and is a "crabby" clam a sign of quality--or poor quality control?

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  1. They were probably pea crabs. They are technically parasites because they slow the growth of the host, but they are largely considered to do no harm to humans. Do a quick google for more info.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MaspethMaven

      However, these were not spherical shaped, nor did they have the tail appearance described in Wikipedia. They looked like tiny versions of sand crabs you see whenever you turn rocks over around here at low tide. I believe I ate one before seeing it, and while they didn't detract too terribly from the taste, I think there was sand in the clam that was stuck in the crab itself. That wasn't too pleasant.

      Regardless, the chef claimed it was the clam that ate the crab, which didn't seem right to me - also didn't reassure me that he knew what he was talking about when he said it was OK to eat. Besides, should I pay $30 for an entree that's just "OK to eat"?

      1. re: foodiegrl

        Pinnotherid crabs would have been my first assumption as well, but if that's not what they looked like . . .
        Could they have been amphipods (picture here: or isopods (look something like pill bugs)? That's usually what people are referring to when they talk about sand crabs or sand fleas (they're neither crabs nor fleas). Both groups have commensal species, though I'm not sure about bivalves acting as hosts. No matter what, the chef was incorrect that the clam was eating the "crab" - clams don't do that. Regardless, I don't think it indicates that anything was wrong with the clams.

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        1. As a life long oyster fan, (I used to gather my own) I have seen plenty of tiny crabs. When we roast the oysters, the crabs cook too and turn a beautiful pink, and are very sweet.
          I don't clam but they are probably the same crabs.

          1. A very long time ago in a small village on the northern coast of France, (Gee, I shoulda started with "once upon a time") a friend took me to a famed local bistro where we were served delicious clams. Each one contained a tiny crab. I thought I was seeing things and whispered about it to my friend. He just laughed and said that they were supposed to be in there.

            I have never heard of those tiny crabs again until today - and in my home state, too.