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Buying Live Soft Shell Crabs

Does anyone know where I could buy live soft shell crabs in the Bay Area?

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  1. I don't believe you will ever find live soft shells in a market. Even in Louisiana I never saw such a thing. The problem is if you keep them alive the shells harden and then you have plain old crabs.

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    1. re: Zeldog

      This is VERY untrue, unless you can keep them alive for a few months. Soft shells are regular hard shells that are molting the old shell. Hence the short season. FWIW you can t keep them alive out of natural environment more than a couple days. They need not be alive to be eaten, the enzymes that degrade the meat do not form for about 24 or so hours after they die. This also applies to lobster as well. I have cooked TONS of recently dead lobster with few problems.

    2. You can find them live at Bryan's right now, around $5.50 each.
      Nijiya has them as well, for $3.99 ea.
      They were live when I brought them home last time (from Bryan's), but they do die quickly so try to buy them the same day you'll be cooking them.

      3 Replies
      1. re: rabaja

        i saw them in the fridge at a seafood center on Clement St in San Francisco two weekends ago. I believe it's right next to Pizza Orgazmica

        1. re: rabaja

          Well, I stand corrected. I guess you can get whatever you want if you pay enough. But $4 to $6 for a crab that weighs around 6 ounces (which means maybe 3 oz of meat)? I love soft shells, but now they are a pleasure I can only enjoy when I visit my former home state.

          1. re: Zeldog

            Well you eat pretty near all of the soft shell and our dungeness averages about 20 to 25% meat. I guess the "meat" to cost ratio is close to the same.

        2. Soft shell crabs may be frozen. They do not taste quite as good as cooked when live (and there is a certain thrill in seeing the little buggers crawl around the pan). We had a restaurant in the family for a while and most of the soft shells were kept frozen until cooked to order. Good idea to clean before freezing. Many oriental markets carry soft shells at a price more reasonable than the upscale food stores. They are shippen live and live a few days out of water.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Docsknotinn

            No...not really. I grew up on soft shell crabs on Chesapeake Bay. Even after removing the gill bailers (called by many the "dead man") and severing the mouth area, a certain degree of nerve impulse remains. A healthy, live crab will respond to the heat even after cleaning. As a kid, we would wade out into the mud flats at low tide and reap a harvest...crab sandiches were a favorite.

          2. Saw them again today at Bryan's, $6/each. They were very much alive, their little legs were moving back and forth.

            1. anywhere to be recommended in the valley? is this typically their season?

              1 Reply
              1. Are we talking about an East Coast type of seafood here? I've never heard of eating soft shell dungeness.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Sharuf

                  Sharuf, right now is the soft shell season (moulting) for blue crabs, especially in the Chesapeake bay region. If you've eaten at sushi places that do a lot of rolls, tempura soft shell crab often made from off-season frozen crabs is a popular ingredient. Coming acrosss the continental U.S. doesn't seem distant relative to the long trips made by some of the seafood in the marketplace.

                2. Bought some last Friday at Marina Meats on Chestnut St, S.F. for $4.00 each. Dredged them in flour, dipped them in egg and rolled them in Matzo meal ( we were out of bread crumbs). A couple of minutes in hot fat and yum. Don't bother with frozen, they seem to me to develop a nasty,bitter crab-liver taste.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: little big al

                    This is an old thread but see little big al is still active. Been wondering how good the meat is in the soft shell Dungeness Crab, they say it is watery & poor quality. Is that just a misnomer to deter harvesting at this stage?

                    1. re: FishBreath

                      It's illegal to harvest Dungeness crabs in the soft-shell stage. The soft-shell crabs sold around here are from the East Coast.

                  2. Reviving an old thread, but curious if anyone has seen live soft shell crabs yet this year?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: mellowpa

                      My Fish Monger(wholesale) has them starting last week. The fresh dressed ones are of better quality around here in my opinion. The ones that they ship live are always leathery, I think so that they can survive the journey.

                      1. re: chefj

                        I bought 2 yesterday at Ferry Plaza Seafoods for $6 each. I didn't weigh them, but they were large and still moving (although somewhat dreamily). Got some scallops for La Principessa (who thinks softies are too much like fingernails) and they all fried up a treat. Nice "dry" texture on the scallops btw.

                        1. re: little big al

                          Yeah it is the "Fingernail" texture that you just can't avoid out here with live Crabs. They need to be a a couple of Days past Busting to live through the shipping.