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Jan 3, 2012 06:29 AM

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?

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  1. 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.

    2 Replies
    1. re: nmprisons

      nmprisons: I assumed they were from the Chesapeake area. We had some fantastic steamed crabs @ Capt White's in DC the weekend before.
      Overcooked? Ouch! I'm losing my touch.
      "The Bay?" as in Hampton or Sheepshead?
      Thanks for the info!!

      1. re: Motosport

        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).

    2. 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.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Cheeryvisage

        No roe on thes "Janes"!! I'll watch my cooking time next time.
        Those DC crabs were outstanding and not expensive. Capt White's rocks my world.
        Thanks for the info.

        1. re: Motosport

          did you steam them or boil them?

          1. re: hon

            Boil crabs? Bite your tongue!! Carbs and lobster are always steamed. The less water the better.

      2. 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.

        1 Reply
        1. re: lulumoolah

          They are blue crabs, they just aren't local.

        2. 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.

          4 Replies
          1. re: jin14

            Hmm... I do know it's illegal for recreational fishers to go crabbing at this time of the year, but I know for professionals there are different guidelines. I just don't know if they are allowed limited crabbing even at this time of year.

            1. re: lulumoolah

              There are no crabs to be had in the Mid-Atlantic area, they have all buried into the mud for the winter, crabbers professional or otherwise would have nothing to catch unless you went "dredging" for them and I would think that would damage or kill them.

              1. re: hon

                Dredging doesn't kill them, there just aren't a lot to be had right now in the mid-atlantic.

            2. re: jin14

              This is not true. I catch and cook crabs a few times each year. Crabs caught that day will still get mushy if you overcook them.