P.S. I didn't write this because I wasn't invited to the dinner. Hint hint.
This is the time of the year to eat this delicacy. These hairy crustaceans are so called because of the large amount of hair or fur on the legs and pincers.
The 2 best ways to eat this are either to go to a particular restaurant in Shanghai where everything is done for you and all you have to do is eat and pay. Unfortunately you have to pay a lot.
The other way is to be invited by someone who brings in the crabs themselves and serves the crabs at home.This is a real treat and luxury and a big thank you once again if my host happens to be reading this.
The hair on the legs traps a great deal of mud and this has to be thoroughly removed, otherwise you will be eating mouthfuls of sand and mud. Besides being well cleaned, the crabs are also bigger, almost the size of your fist, and the meat therefore sweeter. Also, the generous host provides large amounts of crabs for you to taste both the male and female, which can be distinguished by the wider and larger plate at the bottom of the body in the female.
The part to die for is the roe which is present in both sexes. These reddish orange eggs are what the connoiseurs go for; except that the cholesterol levels in these eggs are also very high, but since they come only once a year, why worry too much over it?
Before you start, wash your hands as there is a lot of handling and my host has also provided an apron to protect your shirt or dress.
Laid out on the table is a pair of special scissors for hairy crabs so that you can cut the legs, split the shell and push out the meat, or you can use the probe-like tool to do this.
Obviously there are many ways to eat this dish but the most popular way, allowing the meat to retain it's freshness, is to eat it steamed. To keep it piping hot, each crab is wrapped with aluminium foil, with a red sticker to indicate that a female crab is inside for those who wish to try it.
Again, everyone has their own way of getting to the meat, but I tend to be very clinical and start by removing all the legs and pincers first, followed by the shell and the plate at the base. With a small teaspoon, scoop out the creamy roe and taste the fullness of the eggs and enjoy!
Remove the meat from the legs with the help of the scissors provided and the meat from the body. Break the body into two, removing the meat in the process.
The sweet flesh can be eaten on its own but the flavour is enhanced if the meat is dipped into a sauce made up of vinegar, soy sauce,pounded ginger and sugar.
Dexterity is useful in how fast you can dissect and get to the meat. Beginners are easy to spot when compared to the seasoned experts. Still, to each his own and the slower person could savour it more.
I tried both male and female and enjoyed the former better. They are bigger and the roe is softer. The roe of the female may be more copious but the consistency is harder, drier and less tasty unless, it is early in the season and the female's roe is a little softer. 3 to 4 crabs is about all one can eat unless you are a Sumo wrestler. Besides, too much of a good thing loses its charm, although there are those who claim they can eat 7-8 crabs at a sitting.
Chase it down with warm sake or if you prefer, champagne. As the meal is rather dry, champagne seems like a better choice.
The crabs kept coming and everybody had their fill after 3-4 crabs. The hungrier ones probably ate 5. The meal was topped off with a serving of light porridge.
That's it for hairy crabs. Till the same time next year.
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