Hairy crab season
I keep reading about hairy crab season in Hong Kong in this board.
When is this season specifically?
Which restaurants have this kind of hairy crab menus? And what's your favorite?
Is this really seasonal? That means they are only available during the season.
I did not manage to eat at Shanghai Garden .... but I ate 1 hairy crab at Lei Garden TST branch.
Well, this creature is so small ! :)
Not much meat ... and I was unlucky because it did not have roe.
Disappointed, really. But probably not, at least I finally saw and tasted it :)
About Lei Garden TST itself, I am disappointed. It does not deserve Michelin Star 1 (2009 guide). It has some interesting menus, but when I ordered some of them ... they said "we dont have that today" (or sold out).
I can understand for one of the menu that use "crocodile". Yes, I ordered that.
But "sauteed sea whelk" ??? I saw sea whelk all over the place in HK, so I could not believe they didnt have that.
Even worse, they didnot have "roasted suckling pig" !!! (sold out).
I thought suckling pig should be standard on up market restaurant (hey it is pork! source must be abundance).
And I came right on time 18:00 ... first customer that day for dinner.
as mentioned, the season is typically during the fall, the height of it is mid to late October to mid November. The crabs are on the small side, but they are very good, requiring nothing more than a little vinegar/ginger/cooking wine dipping sauce. The females are especially prized for their roe, though by November, its typically too late to find good females. The crabs are almost always steamed, it would be a horrible insult to find them as chili crab and while they are little, 2 is typically enough for a meal.
While they are probably fresher and the better ones are found in Jiangsu and the Shanghai area, they are available all over China this time of year, every few weeks I'll get them at the grocery store and cook them up for a great meal.
Hairy crab is a big deal in Shanghai from October to December and in Shanghai you can find it everywhere. We tried to find it in Hong Kong but didn't (even at Chili Crab Under the Bridge). If you get to Shanghai, the easiest place for a tourist to find hairy crab is on Yunnan Street south of Ya'nan (in that the first block). You'll see lots of styrofoam boxes with them in it. In our opinion, by the way, they are highly over-rated. They are too small and difficult to extract the morsels from. We've had many better and sweeter crabs. (For the millionth time, I've tried to upload a photo to Chow--this time of a hairy crab. It is impossible for me! So, have a look at our photo on our photo website: http://www.fototime.com/ftweb/bin/ft.... )
Sizewise, Hairy crab is about the same size, if not bigger, than the Blue crab found on the east coast of the US ( whose meat are extracted to make Maryland crabcakes etc ).
Meat of the Hairy crab is very sweet and ALL Shanghainese restaurants extract the flesh from both body and legs of the steamed crabs using workers with special skill and tools. The flesh are then sauteed with the roe and an abundance of Shao Xing wine and premium soy to create a 'hash' which are then used as ingredients for dumplings or for cooking noodles, tofus, sharksfin....etc!
They are valuable commodities and are definitely NOT 'after thought' items!