Apparently, when I was in Hong Kong a few weeks back it was the very tail of the tail end of hairy crab season. Auntie Pearl had invited a bunch of her friends over to cook hairy crab at her place while I was staying over so yay! I could understand maybe a quarter of what they were saying in Cantonese and they wouldn’t let me help out in the kitchen so they told me to go chill (not Netflix and chill le gasp!) The aunties and uncle I met were as follows: Auntie Eugenie, Auntie Cecilia, Auntie Jane, and Uncle Steven. They were all super cool and we enjoyed some white wine while waiting for the crabs to steam properly.
Since it was my first time ever having hairy crab they explained that people like to pick the girl crabs at the beginning of the season because the roe is sweeter but firmer and the boy crabs at the end of the season because then their roe is sweeter but softer. The way to tell girl hairy crabs from boy hairy crabs is to check their bellies. The girls have a rounder belly flap shape and the boys have a pointier one. Even the crabs have to stick to a gender binary +______+ (Down with the gender binary!) Well, anyway, they had picked 2 boy hairy crabs for each of us to enjoy because soft roe is yum.
We added more food like roast white chicken (白切雞), homemade lap cheong fan (臘腸飯/Chinese sausage rice), boiled gai lan (芥蘭/Chinese kale), and boiled black sesame dumplings in ginger soup (湯圓). We also couldn’t forget Chinese wine with dried plums to sip on while picking at the crab. Once I tasted it, I immediately thought that it was the same wine they use to marinate choi gai (醉雞/drunken chicken). After some quick research, I have concluded that it was indeed Shaoxing wine from Zhejiang Gu Yue Long Shan Shaoxing Wine Co., Ltd. (浙江古越龍山紹興酒) Sometimes I like to taste the residual wine from the choi gai after eating. Okay, I like to do that a lot, please don’t judge me. #sonotanalcoholic
The crabs came out smoking and super hot from the pot and they had this lovely bright orange color like most if not all crustaceans get when they are cooked. Beautiful. Our dipping sauce was black vinegar with ginger chunks, very similar to dipping sauce for siu long bao. Uncle Steven, who seems to be the master of eating hairy crab taught me how to methodically get all the meat out without wasting anything. Or cutting my fingers.
First we took the belly flap and the head off. Then we cleaned out the head to use as a sauce dish. I can’t stress how clever and efficient this is. Then before breaking the crab in half, Uncle Steven told me to use one of the pointy parts of the leg to remove the butterfly shaped crab heart in the middle. He said it’s not exactly good for us to eat so out it went. The soft roe was so good especially with the sauce. Then my usual practice of going through breaking down the body and finally the legs and claws. Messy but so worth it. The crab meat was sweet and the black vinegar mix complimented it so well. I cannot believe it took me all this time to try hairy crab. Ugh. Also, Uncle Steven cleaned up each of his crabs within 15 minutes using only chopsticks. The rest of us took close to 30 minutes a piece and aside from chopsticks we needed scissors and a crab fork. He just watched all of us go at it while sipping his wine 😛
After roughly an hour spent crushing those delicious hairy crabs, we switched gears and dove into the rest of the food. The chicken, even though just bought from the supermarket, was delicious and came with a lot of ginger green onion oil that I covet so much. I think we bought a whole chicken and we kinda struggled to finish it because we still had much to eat. The gai lan wasn’t overcooked and it was fresh so there was a lot of flavor. No need for a side of oyster sauce. Both of these were essentially sides to the lap cheong fan. Thinly sliced lap cheong, thinly sliced lap mei (臘味), soaked dried mushrooms, and soaked dried shrimps dotted the rice. The trick was to use the water the mushrooms and shrimps were soaked in to cook the rice. That way the flavor seeps more evenly between the grains. Delicious! Now that I know how to make it, nothing can stop me from cooking it at home!
Dessert was boiled black sesame dumplings in ginger soup. This was a great way to end our meal and the Sunday night because everyone was quite full and not overly tipsy. The hot ginger soup was refreshing and had a kick of spice while the black sesame dumplings were very soft, chewy, and sweet. Definitely not a problem finishing dessert cause there’s always room for it! Of course we finished the wine and cleaned up right after as well :]
I’m super happy that I was able to try hairy crab and this is definitely not the last time that I’ll be having it. Like a lot of delicacies that have become more affordable and easily accessible, we must always be vigilant and aware when there are signs that we, as humans are already affecting the environment we live in beyond repair. Sustainability is key and if it doesn’t start with us then what can future generations start with if there’s nothing left. Just a fair warning because the future shouldn’t just be seen as something within our lifetime but for the lifetimes of those who follow us.