Blue Crabs @ C-town fish market
After our Chinatown Steam Bun crawl (separate report) NYE day (Saturday) I walked by the C-town fish markets on Canal just East of Centre St. There were two markets that had some of the biggest lobsters I'd seen in a long time. Personally I find the 1-2 pounders the tastiest. There were also several bushels of live crabs of decent size. I made a mental note to stop by early Sunday and grab a dozen to steam with some Old Bay.
We swung by early Sunday and bought a dozen. They were still alive but not as lively. Got them home ASAP and tossed them in the steaming pot. I noticed that they were all females. What's up with that? Is it a seasonal thing?
Unfortunately they were not a big hit as the meat was kind of mushy. Is it because they were half dead or a female thing?
Anyone have any ideas?
I grew up on the Bay. Here are some thoughts:
(1) There are no blue crabs anywhere near Manhattan this time of year and so those crabs were shipped in, not local, which is why they were half dead.
(2) They were female because females are cheaper. They have smaller claws and are typically smaller bodied. However, some think they are sweeter and some enjoy the row. (Females are also more readily available in the winter because they can tolerate cold water better and generally show up later in the season in greater numbers.)
(3) They were mushy because you overcooked them. Cook them less.
(4) I have never purchased shellfish in chinatown that was anywhere near fresh enough to be worth the effort.
Crabs that have been out of the water a long time cook faster than those that haven't and so that might have been part of the problem.
The bay, as in the Chesapeake.
The crabs weren't from that Bay, either. All the blue crabs in that region have gone into the ocean or into the mud. I would bet they came from Louisiana or Texas (the same is true of the one's you got in DC, but they were probably shipped in more recently).
Chinese people prefer female crabs far above male crabs. Female crabs are far more desirable because of their roe. However, I don't think it's blue crab season right now? The best time to eat (female) crabs is during the fall (coinciding with the Mid-Autumn Festival). The crab roes are out of this world delicious.
Yeah, these were definitely not blue crabs (or not the ones you want to buy and eat). The wrong time of year for them. Honestly, I refuse to eat crabs up here and just wait until I go down to Maryland/DC to have them. Also, it's illegal to be crabbing at this time of the year in Maryland if I remember correctly. Maryland has some strict guidelines about crabbing.
Also, the mushiness may not be the result of overcooking as much as the quality of the crabs and fact that they shouldn't have been sold in the first place. Sorry, you had subpar crabs.
The reason that the crabs were soft is that they were not fresh. Even live crab that has sat around for a while will get soft. You can over cook it and fresh crab will still be firm. Any crab you purchased this month is from Louisiana Texas as crab season is over for the bay area.
The female crabs are more popular with asians so most likely thats why they had the females. Non asians prefer the males as they have more meat. But I'm thinking that the female roe is getting more popular these days.
You can not go crabbing in Maryland as crab season is over and it is iligal. Not that you couldn't get some, as I knew some locals who would bring me their winter catches. These are going to be pretty muddy as crabs hide in the mud during the winter. So I put them in some water and the crabs will filter out the mud, but still cooking them is muddy.
Check out Crabclaw for real maryland crab, it's worth the trip.