How to become a hairy crab expert overnight

Luscious roe and glorious, sweet flesh: These are some reasons why we love the hairy crab

Crystal Jade Hairy crab promotion - Steamed Hairy crab

The hairy crab season is in full swing!

True foodies understand the tormenting wait for seasonal delicacies, be it black truffle or durians.

This season, the spotlight is on the hairy crab which matures between the months of September and December.

The vermillion-hued crustacean is prized for its creamy roe and succulent flesh.

After eating our fill of the seasonal specialty at Crystal Jade Golden Palace, here’s what we learnt:

1. Not all hairy crabs are made the same

Hairy crabs, also known as Chinese mitten crabs for its furry claws, is native to the coastal regions of eastern Asia, from Korea to the Fujian province of China.

Yet, it is the hairy crabs that hail from Yangcheng Lake, a freshwater lake north-east of Suzhou that are the most coveted for their abundant and aromatic roe.

Locals believe that the lake has some of the best conditions for farming these crabs — unpolluted waters that are shallow with a sandy bottom and plenty of aquatic plants.

2. Male is creamy, female is firm

Knowing the gender of your hair crabs can help you pick the one that best suits your tastebuds.

The simplest way to tell the crustacean’s gender is by looking at its underbelly — the male has a triangular tab whereas the female’s is round.

Roe from the female crab is distinctively firmer, denser and comes in a darker hue of orange: Great for those who enjoy crumbly roe with ample texture.

At Crystal Jade, we were served male hairy crabs which contained roe so creamy, it had an almost-buttery consistency. After a few bites, the roe tasted like velvety egg yolk, melting beautifully on my tongue.

3. Steaming is best

Crystal Jade Hairy crab promotion - Steamed Hairy crab xiao long bao

The Hairy Crab Xiao Long Bao is worth the try

The best way to enjoy the hairy crab is by simply steaming it.

At Crystal Jade, I had the chance to try both the Steamed Hairy Crab ($42 per 175-199g piece) and the Chilled Hairy Crab with Chinese wine ($45 per 175-199g piece).

The former is the classic way to enjoy the crustacean, allowing one to enjoy the crab’s natural flavours.

However, the chilled version stole the show.

Gently steamed over a low fire till almost cooked, the crab is then steeped in Hua Tiao wine (Chinese yellow wine) for five hours before being served chilled.

This preparation style allows the ‘yang’, or warmth, of the yellow wine to counterbalance the ‘yin’, or cooling, properties of the hairy crab. The end result? Both the crab’s roe and flesh were bursting with wine’s fragrance, making it an unforgettable dish.

4. You need skill to dissect hairy crabs

I was told by a dining companion that in Shanghai, where hairy crabs are considered a popular gourmet delicacy, diners consume at least three or four hairy crabs at a go — sans elaborate scissors or tools.

And here we were at our dining table, a bunch of Singaporeans hacking helplessly at our hairy crabs.

Turns out, savouring these creatures require plenty of skill. At Crystal Jade, the waiters help by removing the crab’s innards before serving them to diners, making it easier to get to the precious roe.

When it comes to eating the crab’s leg, you have to first cut it into smaller segments. Next, push the narrower segment of the claw into the wider segment to extricate the flesh.

For the pincer, simply remove it, snip into segments, and cut along the sides to enjoy the flesh.

5. Crab roe tastes great in many dishes

Crystal Jade Hairy crab promotion - Braised shark’s fin with Hairy crab roe

Creamy and rich, the hairy crab roe is a great match for braised shark’s fin

If you love your hairy crab, why not enjoy it in a multitude of dishes? Crystal Jade’s seven-course Hairy Crab set meal, at $118 each, offers items from the Hairy Crab a la carte menu as well as other specialities.

For instance, the scrumptious Braised Shark’s Fin With Hairy Crab Roe ($35 per serving) was a decadent broth thickened with the rich flavours of the roe.

Another must-try is the Steamed Hairy Crab Xiao Long Bao ($6 per piece) which arrived piping hot, bursting with generous amounts of crab flesh.

Crystal Jade’s ‘An Indulgent Crustacean Affair – Hairy Crab’ promotion will be available from Oct 12 to Nov 30 at Crystal Jade Palace, Crystal Jade Golden Palace and Crystal Jade DINING IN.

Find out where else to get your hairy crab fix here.

By Samantha Francis