Food Knowledge

What is Chinese mitten crab?

Chinese mitten crab (Hairy crab)

Chinese hairy crab (mitten crab) is a Chinese delicacy with a large amount of rich, creamy golden roe. A notable trait is yellow hairs grown on its body and legs. Enjoy this crab during its season from the autumn month of September until the winter month of December. During this period, the crab is mature and stores fat against the cold, which increase the sweet and tender taste.

Where is Chinese mitten crab from?

Chinese mitten crab is farmed in freshwater rivers all over China, surviving even in extreme cold temperature. One lake that’s gained a reputation for producing the best crabs is Yangcheng lake in Suzhou, Jiangsu province. Now, the lake is closely monitored by the government to maintain cleanliness for production of high-quality crabs.

How to enjoy Chinese mitten crab?

Because this tough crab can survive in a cold environment, there’s a high demand for fresh hairy crabs, limbs tied with ropes, to be shipped live in an insulated frozen box all over China and Asia. Once arrived, the crab must be scrubbed to get rid of the mud and dirt from the rivers.

To eat, the crab can be steamed, boiled, or grilled, which release an enticing fragrance. It’s commonly steamed or boiled with perilla leaves for a pleasant aroma. Ginger can also be placed under the crab to further enhance the taste.

A premium presentation of Chinese mitten crab is to leave the exoskeleton as intact as possible. This crab has a delicate structure, which the top and the bottom shell can be pulled apart, while scissors are used to snip at the joints and claws. The small crab leg segment or a stick-like utensil can push the meat out of the big segments. Finally, the crab is reassembled on a plate, ready to serve.

Female vs Male Chinese Hairy Crab

There is a difference between male and female hairy crab. Male Chinese hairy crab has a bell-shaped belly with a creamy, golden roe. Meanwhile, the female Chinese hairy crab has a round belly with a reddish orange roe that’s more tough and chewy. Both are delicious in their own way.

What to eat Chinese mitten crab with?

Chinese mitten crab is already delicious by itself. But it can also be dipped in Zhenjiang or Chinkiang sauce (sour black rice vinegar sauce) with optional additions of ginger slices and brown sugar. Traditionally, Chinese people enjoy hairy crab with hot ginger tea or yellow wine.

Besides enhancing the flavors, ginger, perilla leaves, and yellow wine are heaty ingredients that can help reduce the coldness on the body caused by eating too much of the crab.

Chinese mitten crab also has a wide range of culinary uses such as in omelets, fried rice, or soup.

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