Hairy Crab 大閘蟹 @ Ah Yat

Woohoo! Tis the season to be crabby, fa la la la la… la la… la la! 😉

Did you know that 大閘蟹 (dà zhá xiè) or Hairy Crab is also known as Chinese Mitten Crab? It is so called because the medium-sized burrowing crab’s furry claws looked like mittens.

大閘蟹 is an autumn delicacy in Shanghai cuisine and eastern China. It is prized for the crab roe. However, the crab meat itself is believed by the Chinese to have a “cooling” (yin) effect on the body. Thus the dish is always served with spicy ginger tea. The red arrow (in one of the pictures below) showed a piece of whitish rectangular flesh called the “heart”. The server will take this out as it is considered overly cooling and bad for consumption.

There’s a reason for seasonal foods. After the heaty (yang) durian season, the cooling (yin) Hairy Crab season comes, preparing the body to welcome autumn and adjusting for winter. But depending on the individual’s body type, not everyone can take yin or yang food without some prep work. Our preparation this meal was Huang Jiu “黄酒”, a liquor that is not distilled and contains less than 20% alcohol. This restaurant does not serve the kind we wanted so we settled for Shao Hsing Hua Tiao Chiew “绍兴花雕酒”, or ShaoXing Rice Wine, which is made of water, rice, wheat, salt, and caramel. We would prefer the 20 year old vintage but they only had 8 year olds. Best to drink the wine warm or hot!

The crabs are airflown to Singapore, thus the high cost. They are stored at 5°C (41°F), which induces a sleepy state of hibernation. The crabs are steamed “live” and the best dipping sauce to bring out it’s natural sweet taste is 浙醋 or Zhejiang Black Vinegar with some ginger julienne. The name of the province, Zhejiang “浙江” is often abbreviated to its first character, “浙” and hence, 浙醋.

The Hairy Crab season will last about three months starting October till about December with the male crab (see the apex on the under shell). The males often have larger claws, another conspicuous difference is the form of the pleon (abdomen); in most male crabs, this is narrow and triangular in form, while females have a broader, rounded abdomen. So this the male crab. You have to wait till November before I can show you the female pleon, lol…

The best time to eat Hairy Crabs is in November where one usually gets to eat at least a pair (one male and one female). They are also better tasting from late October to November although the season may last through early December.

Everyone has different eating style. I usually eat the roe (without vinegar) first whilst hot and then work on the meat dipped in vinegar. My friend poured vinegar into the shell before devouring the roe. What’s your style?

When we see these on the dining table, we know Hairy Crabs are being served. Ordinary crab dishes do not require spoon.

When we see these on the dining table, we know Hairy Crabs are being served. Ordinary crab dishes do not require spoon.

Crab is served!<br />This was the only bigger one that was left when we arrived. The restaurant manager informed us that someone just ordered the second last piece. So we settled for 2 pieces of smaller ones. Our set meal already included one so we had 4 altogether.<br />S$58 for 250g.

Crab is served!
This was the only bigger one that was left when we arrived.
The restaurant manager informed us that someone just ordered the second last piece. So we settled for 2 pieces of smaller ones.
Our set meal already included one so we had 4 altogether.
S$58 for 250g.

As lay person, we do not know how to pick out the "heart" of the crab.

As lay person, we do not know how to pick out the “heart” of the crab.

The server or manager will do the removal of shells, body and legs (and pit them on a serving plate) as well as any parts deemed unfit for consumption which will be removed from the table.

The server or manager will do the removal of shells, body and legs (and pit them on a serving plate) as well as any parts deemed unfit for consumption which will be removed from the table.

Some skills and practice are required as the crabs needed to be handled quickly so the staff would not be scalded for holding them too long. The customers also want to eat them whilst hot.

Some skills and practice are required as the crabs needed to be handled quickly so the staff would not be scalded for holding them too long. The customers also want to eat them whilst hot.

The red arrow showed a piece of whitish rectangular flesh called the "heart". The server will take this out as it is considered overly cooling and bad for consumption.

The red arrow showed a piece of whitish rectangular flesh called the “heart”. The server will take this out as it is considered overly cooling and bad for consumption.

The crabs are airflown to Singapore, thus the high cost. They are stored at 5°C (41°F), which induces a sleepy state of hibernation. Did you know that China has introduced vending machines to sell this species of crab in the subways?

The crabs are airflown to Singapore, thus the high cost. They are stored at 5°C (41°F), which induces a sleepy state of hibernation. Did you know that China has introduced vending machines to sell this species of crab in the subways?

大閘蟹 (dà zhá xiè) or Hairy Crab is also known as Chinese Mitten Crab? It is so called because the medium-sized burrowing crab's furry claws looked like mittens.

大閘蟹 (dà zhá xiè) or Hairy Crab is also known as Chinese Mitten Crab?
It is so called because the medium-sized burrowing crab’s furry claws looked like mittens.

Hairy crab is an autumn delicacy in Shanghai cuisine and eastern China. It is prized for the crab roe.

Hairy crab is an autumn delicacy in Shanghai cuisine and eastern China. It is prized for the crab roe.

The crab meat itself is believed by the Chinese to have a "cooling" (yin) effect on the body. Thus the dish is always served with ginger tea.

The crab meat itself is believed by the Chinese to have a “cooling” (yin) effect on the body. Thus the dish is always served with ginger tea.

The crabs are steamed "live" and the best dipping sauce to bring out it's natural sweet taste is 浙醋 or Zhejiang Black Vinegar and some ginger julienne. The name of the province, Zhejiang "浙江" is often abbreviated to its first character, "浙".

The crabs are steamed “live” and the best dipping sauce to bring out it’s natural sweet taste is 浙醋 or Zhejiang Black Vinegar and some ginger julienne. The name of the province, Zhejiang “浙江” is often abbreviated to its first character, “浙”.

The best time to eat Hairy Crabs is in November where one usually eat at least a pair (one male and one female). They are also better tasting from late Oct till November although the season may last through early Dec.

The best time to eat Hairy Crabs is in November where one usually eat at least a pair (one male and one female). They are also better tasting from late October till November although the season may last through early December.

After you have devoured the roe, eat the meat.

After you have devoured the roe, eat the meat.

Dip the "leg" into the vinegar and it's soooooo sweet! The whole ocean in da mouth (hahaha, actually freshwater crabs from Yangcheng Lake).

Dip the “leg” into the vinegar and it’s soooooo sweet! The whole ocean in da mouth (hahaha, actually freshwater crabs from Yangcheng Lake).

Sweet!

Sweet!

Hairy Crabs - smaller sized ones at 175g for S$28 per piece before taxes.

Hairy Crabs – smaller sized ones at 175g for S$28 per piece before taxes.

The Hairy Crab season will last about three months starting October to about December with the male crab (see the apex on the under shell). The males often have larger claws, another conspicuous difference is the form of the pleon (abdomen); in most male crabs, this is narrow and triangular in form, while females have a broader, rounded abdomen. So this the male crab. You have to wait till November before I can show you the female pleon, lol...

The Hairy Crab season will last about three months starting October to about December with the male crab (see the apex on the under shell). The males often have larger claws, another conspicuous difference is the form of the pleon (abdomen); in most male crabs, this is narrow and triangular in form, while females have a broader, rounded abdomen. So this the male crab. You have to wait till November before I can show you the female pleon, lol…

We usually start eating the roe first and then the meat.

We usually start eating the roe first and then the meat.

The texture is like luscious cream without strong taste. If you like soft cheeses, you may like this too.

The texture is like luscious cream without strong taste. If you like soft cheeses, you may like this too.

Nothing in here that we wanted. Had to make do.

Nothing in here that we wanted. Had to make do.

ShaoXing Rice Wine. Shao Hsing Hua Tiao Chiew "绍兴花雕酒" is made of water, rice, wheat, salt, and caramel.

ShaoXing Rice Wine.
Shao Hsing Hua Tiao Chiew “绍兴花雕酒” is made of water, rice, wheat, salt, and caramel.

Because Hairy Crabs are very yin or cooling, we had some Chinese wine to go with them.

Because Hairy Crabs are very yin or cooling, we had some Chinese wine to go with them.

I like my Chinese wine served very hot so the restaurant kept in a hot water bath.

I like my Chinese wine served very hot so the restaurant kept in a hot water bath.

Bill before taxes. 250g at S$58. 175g at S$28.

Bill before taxes.
250g at S$58.
175g at S$28.

I mentioned that one of the smaller crabs was part of a set meal we ordered. Look out for my next post to see  more of Ah Yat's Cantonese cuisine.

I mentioned that one of the smaller crabs was part of a set meal we ordered.
Look out for my next post to see more of Ah Yat’s Cantonese cuisine.

Ah Yat Abalone Forum Restaurant
Hotel Grand Pacific.
101 Victoria Street.
Singapore 188018.
Tel: 6332 2288

Operating Hours: (Everyday)
11.15am – 2.30pm (Lunch)
5.45pm – 10.30pm (Dinner)

Please call ahead to reserve your crabs.

See their promotions here http://bit.ly/GCe3WO

Information credit: Online Resources and Wikipedia.

Happy eating 😀

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Comments
9 Responses to “Hairy Crab 大閘蟹 @ Ah Yat”
  1. cate b says:

    amazing.. Scary, but amazing. 😀 A tea question for you. While in Beijing at a restaurant that served amazing Duck – they poured tea often and then toward the end of our meal they set a small bowl of a crystallized fruit?? on table – ginger perhaps – they showed us what to do by putting it in our tea – I think there was a variety of hardened fruits – Sorry for calling everything wrong – but language barrier was tough there and our son – who was there studying – did not know enough about Mandarin restaurant terms. It was delicious, by the way

    • Sam Han says:

      Hi Cate, haha, that’s a tough question. We usually put sour plum in tea for digestion or ginger to warm the body. China Chinese’s culture is very different from Singapore or should I say we have run away with the west… Even for us, visiting China is an eye opener though communication may be a tad easier but not quite. Unless you can show me a pic, it is difficult to second guess. Someone asked me if the meat buns we have here are made of cat’s meat, i nearly choked. 😀

      • cate b says:

        hahaha – I’m glad I didn’t ask that. My son’s last day at Shanghai University the instructor wanted everyone to go to lunch – his choice. He wanted to eat dog – he told her he was pretty sure he ate it unawares but this time he wanted it deliberately – the girls didn’t. He won and she took them all to a doggie lunch. woof- he said it wasn’t bad. 😀

  2. Laura Lynn says:

    Yoicks! I don’t like crabs or lobsters. They are too ‘rich’ for my stomach and make me sick. Plus I feel sorry for them getting cooked alive. I’m a softy. Poor little crabs…

    • Sam Han says:

      Hehehe, my daughter had a crab pet once named “sundance” because of the sheen on its shell. It died and she cried for weeks. But we have no qualm eating edible crabs. 😉

      • Laura Lynn says:

        Awww, poor thing. I’ve never heard of crabs as pets. I prefer mine soft and fluffy, like kitties and dogs. Although we have a fish tank…everyone loves crabs it almost makes me wish I could eat them.

  3. Lignum Draco says:

    I didn’t think you were a big fan of crabs. I’ve had plenty of mud crabs but have never had a hairy crab before. Maybe because of its delicacy status, it is hard to find outside of asia?

  4. Janet Rörschåch says:

    You have the best tie. Thank you for taking the time to go out, shoot, eat, and post. You are showing me a whole different world from where I live. Splendid.

  5. daniellajoe says:

    I am allergic to shrimp and crabs, etc but love fresh fish 🙂

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