It’s harvest season for hairy crabs (大闸蟹)

    Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs
    Image source: nuomi.com

    Hairy crab lovers rejoice – the season of your favourite produce is here again.

    Harvesting of hairy crabs, also know as Chinese Mitten crabs because of the ‘fur’ on their claws, typically starts around Mid-September and lasts through to December every year.

    Seasoned hairy crab lovers will know that some of the best produce comes Yangcheng Lake, located in China’s Jiangsu province. The water quality and presence of abundant aquatic life and crab food in the lake create the perfect environment for healthy and happy crabs. And happy crabs meant sweeter meat and roe.

    Indeed, the crab’s roe, rather than its meat is the reason why this particular species is so sought after. Roe from male crabs is yellow and creamy, while the females’ is a bright red, almost orange, compact and rich. In comparison, male crabs are meatier than its female counterparts.

    In order to not overpower the flavour of the crab, the crustacean is enjoyed by simply steaming them and dipping its flesh in a little vinegar and ginger slices.  The dip not only brings out the best of the crab flavour but also helps in dispelling the “cold” or “han” nature of the crabs.  But not just any vinegar. Gourmets insist it has to be elegant and complex Zhenjiang black vinegar.

    Fishermen harvest hairy crabs from Yangcheng Lake with their collapsible net traps. Image source: Xinhua
    Fishermen harvest hairy crabs from Yangcheng Lake with their collapsible net traps. Image source: Xinhua

     

    To tell a male from a female crab, check their underbelly, Females have rounded underbelly, while males have a pointed, V-shaped middle and more leg hair. Image source: Xinhua
    To tell a male from a female crab, check their underbelly, Females have rounded underbelly, while males have a pointed, V-shaped middle and more leg hair. Image source: Xinhua

     

    All the farms in Yangcheng Lake are licensed and regulated, and the crabs and water subjected to regular health and quality inspection. Genuine Yangcheng crabs carry tags bearing their serial number, the name of the farm and its phone number. Image source: Xinhua
    All the farms in Yangcheng Lake are licensed and regulated, and the crabs and water subjected to regular health and quality inspection. Genuine Yangcheng crabs carry tags bearing their serial number, the name of the farm and its phone number. Image source: Xinhua

     

    man holding crab
    The crabs reach sexual maturity at around two years when they are roughly palm-sized. Image source: Xinhua

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