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Jun 15, 2008 07:29 AM

Where do you buy your soft shells?

Is there some groovy fishmonger, maybe down in Chinatown, where one could procure these lovely little morsels at perhaps a bit less than the $5.00 a piece tariff they now command on the upper west side? (In Citarella and Fairway) I know I'm aging myself but I remember when they were $1.99 and nobody knew what to do with them. Ah, the good old days ;-)

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  1. I usually buy them at the Lobster Place in Chelsea Market for a fair price (somewhere around $2 or $3 IIRC last season).

    2 Replies
    1. re: JungMann

      JungMann, I was in the neighborhood yesterday and your post inspired me to stop by Chelsea Market and check the price of soft-shell crabs. They were $5.50 each.

      1. re: NYCkaren

        Are there any good buys left in NYC? Guess I'll save myself 50 cents and just buy at Fairway from now on.

    2. Haven't checked their prices on the soft shells, Sea Breeze on 9th Avenue and 40th Street usually has very good prices for mid town Manhattan. Give them a call.

      I paid 3.50 a couple of weeks ago at Citarella on 3rd Ave.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Nywoman

        Boy, did you get lucky. At the UWS Citarella they were $5.99 a couple of weeks ago. Noticed yesterday that they were down to $4.99. Still a lot more than last year, but then, isn't everything.

        1. re: Nywoman

          a few weeks ago they were $3.99 each at Citarella. then 2 weeks ago they went up to $5.99 each there and just about everywhere else.

          i heard that (excepting Chinatown fishmongers, i'm sure, plus some other exceptions) that Citarella pretty much "sets" the prices for them in the city, and that they are the largest purchaser of the sweet-soft-boys.

          i was willing to pay $4/each, but not $6 each.


          1. re: charlie_b

            I was only willing to pay the money when they were good-sized crabs. The problem with Citarella was that the crabs were pretty measley the first time I saw them this season and they were still charging $3.99 for really tiny crabs...the kind that you would need to eat 3 of to make a normal dinner portion. A few weeks ago I got two really nicely-sized crabs for $4.99 each and it was worth it because they were plump and delicious.

            I would go to Chinatown except that I really am afraid of cleaning the crabs myself. (And I know that sounds ridiculous since I basically ask for them to be killed when asking to be cleaned, but whatever.)

        2. I get mine from the fish markets between baxter and mott on canal. Don't underestimate the low prices at those markets, the fish there is caught in the same place where you buy it for 3-5 times the price.

          2 Replies
          1. re: 50west77th

            I asked this is another thread _ will they clean them for you in Chinatown? Also, I don't have a lot of experience buying soft-shell crabs. How long will they be OK until I get them home and put them in the refrigerator? If I go to Chinatown I'll have either a long-ish walk or a bus ride home. Will they be OK?

            1. re: NYCkaren

              they probably won't clean them for you in Chinatown, but they are easy to clean yourself -- really. lot's of resources online for that, and a Bittman video on NYTimes as well.

              that said, they'll transport and store better if they aren't cleaned, because they will still be alive. as soon as you clean them, you kill them and you want to cook ASAP (although could be stored refrigerated for a day if needed).

              i would get them live, and ask them to pack an icebag to keep them cool for your trip home.


          2. Definitely Chinatown, gavspen. I take the D train to Grand & Chrystie. Within a half a block of the subway exit are at least two fish markets that sell soft-shells. I prefer the hotel size, which are $14/dozen, plenty for two people. Larger sizes are usually available. They don't clean them for you but that's good since you can keep them alive until you're ready to fry them. For a good crab-cleaning tutorial click You didn't ask for my recipe but here it is anyway: dust crabs with seasoned 1/2-flour 1/2-cornstarch mixture, Heat peanut oil in cast iron or other skillet til very hot. Saute on both sides til well browned and crisp. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice, sprinkle with capers, and enjoy! I cut them into bite-size pieces with a scissors before serving.

            4 Replies
            1. re: dorlene

              Yeah, I guess a dozen oughta be plenty for two people ;-)

              Thanks Dorlene (and all others who chimed in) that's even cheaper that the 1.99 in days of yore; to Chinatown I go.

              1. re: dorlene

                wow, a dozen for 14 bucks! i think i might just re-explore the idea of getting fish in Chinatown.

                1. re: dorlene

                  Just saw soft shell crabs at a fish market on Grand too, between Chrystie and Bowery. They had three different sizes, ranging from $9.99/dozen for scrawny little crabs to $25.99/dozen for great looking ones.

                  1. re: yt28

                    ok, i'm heading there after work. its soft shell crab fest time!