Hua Diao steamed Shanghai Hairy Crabs 花雕蒸大閘蟹


It’s crab season again! After the “butter crabs” in August and “double-shell crabs” in September, it is now turn for the best – Shanghai Hairy Crabs. The real ones only come from YangCheng Lake in Jiangsu, even though there are farms in many places now due to the high demand. It is said that YangCheng Lake has a rocky bottom so the crabs are much cleaner and do not taste muddy as they would from other places.
Eating crab can be a pain for a lot of non-Asians as most don’t know how to disintegrate one properly, even with all the right tools one can end up with messy fingers, greasy face and a stained top, all for some mouthfuls of bony mix. But once the art of eating crab is mastered, there is no more spat out shards, ruined clothes and spotty face, and the fingers become the best part. The best crab dinner is at home with family or close friends, freshly cooked, with a nice sauce and see who can get the most intact piece of meat out.
We were lucky to get these no-hormone YangCheng Lake crabs, each bigger than my hand. The best way to kill them is to get them drunk in Chinese yellow wine – Hua Diao or to stick a chopstick in the mouth and straight through the brain quickly. Never buy dead Hairy Crabs as they spoil extremely quickly. In the case of steaming they must be placed belly up – this applies to any kinds of crabs – so all the good juices stay within the shell and intensifies the flavour.
Steaming mixture:

  • half a bottle of – Hua Diao wine
  • a few slices of – ginger
  • a very small handful of – Sichuan peppers

15 minutes after the liquid boils, then rest for 5 minutes. Steaming with this wine mixture instead of water gives the crabs a sweeter and warmer flavour, and keeps the “yoke” from tasting over-rich. The “yoke”, the greasy yellow (female) or white (male) paste when you open the crab up, is what Hairy Crabs are famous for.
Dipping sauce:

  • Zhejiang vinegar (It’s lighter and smoother than the Shanxi black vinegar, so it wont cover the flavour of crabs)
  • finely grated ginger

Mix together, easy as that. A bottle of warmed vintage Hua Diao wine is the best company for this feast, in Chinese medicine it is said crabs are “cold”, and warmed wine, ginger and peppers will bring it back to a neutral balance. There are 4 parts of crabs that shouldn’t be eaten though: the mouth and brain – these are all bony anyways, the lungs – possibility of parasites, and the stomach – it’s a little piece of star-shaped gray lump in the middle of the chest, can be hard to find to the untrained eye but it’s not a big matter if eaten by mistake.
Hairy crab is not about lumps of meat, it’s about slowly enjoying the tease of the taste buds. It may not be for everyone, but for the true crab lovers, it is an autumn ritual, the ultimate delicacy.

吃螃蟹,尤其是大閘蟹貌似是很多非亞洲人士不能理解的東西 - 可憐的人們啊從小沒有人教他們吃蟹的技巧,從而錯過了這一人間美食。最美的蟹一定要在家裡吃,新鮮的蒸出來,和家人朋友溫馨地圍在一起,蘸著簡單而美味的醬汁,看誰能把蟹肉最完整的剝出來。

  • 半瓶 花雕
  • 幾片 薑
  • 幾顆 花椒


  • 浙醋
  • 細薑末


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