29 November 2009

Chinese mitten crabs


When I was in Shanghai last year for a dreaded work-trip, the only silver lining of the trip was one of the meals we had there that featured Chinese mitten crabs, more commonly known as hairy crabs. It was my first time having it, and I was fortunate a Shanghainese fluent in English was seated next to me and gave me some tips on the most efficient way to extract its sweet flesh and enjoy the abundant, uber-rich roe.

I had fallen in love with the elusive crab ever since and was elated when Ed spotted an advertisement in the newspaper for a hairy crab menu at Ah Yat Abalone Restaurant (Allson Hotel) and suggested we try it. We had one relatively large hairy crab - 250g - each, with plenty of roe. Like in Shanghai, they were served whole at our table. However, unlike in Shanghai, a waitress snipped each hairy crab into neat sections for us. The main body was snipped into two, while the skinny legs were separated into neat segments for us to push the meat out with even skinner chopsticks.

The roe was, as expected, incredibly creamy and unctuous. We savoured every little bit of the roe, and spent near to an hour ensuring the shell was stripped clean of every ounce of its delicately sweet flesh. Given its size, persons who consider eating normal Sri Lankan crabs a chore would certainly find eating hairy crabs too fussy.

Two of the other items on the menu - sharksfin soup with hairy crab roe, and abalone - were superb as well. I was pleasantly surprised that their sharksfin soup surpassed any of the other sharksfin soups I had tried even at restaurants specialising in sharksfin. And the abalone, well it was about three quarter the size of my palm and unbelievable sweet to the last bite.

Knowing how much hairy crabs cost in Shanghai, the price of SGD$168++ per person for a full hairy crab menu was quite alarming, but it was truly a spectacular meal.

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