If you ask Chinese what make them mouth water in autumn, Chinese mitten crab must be the most wanted. The seasonal delicacy is precious, umami and nutrition-inspired with large quantities of proteins, calcium, vitamins and crab erythropoietin. For instance, the contents of Vitamin A, vitamin B and phosphorus are 6 -10 times higher than fish.
What is Chinese mitten crab?
Chinese mitten crab, known as Chinese hairy crab, is named for its furry claws. The crab inhabits rivers, estuaries and coastal lakes across Northeast China’s Yalu River where is the border between China and North Korea, to Chiu-lung River in South China’s Fujian province.
Dating back to 1000 years ago, the Chinese have started researching the mitten crab. Accordingly, the lakes around East China’s Yangtze River provide impeccable conditions for mitten crabs to be grown up. The best of the best are the ones from Yangcheng Lake, followed by Taihu Lake, Gucheng Lake, and Changdang Lake.
Mitten crab depends on fresh water and breeds in the ocean. Every year in the late summer or early autumn, the grown-up mitten crabs start to migrate from the Yangtze River to the oceans. It is the perfect time for the fishermen to catch the ripen mitten crabs and the newborn mitten crabs to nurture. When the eight lunar months arrive, female mitten crabs filled with tasty crab roes are ready to be served. After the ninth lunar month, it turns to savor the male mitten crabs with crab pastes.
The history of Chinese mitten crab
Archaeological studies indicate that Chinese have mitten crab diet culture for over 5000 years. The archaeologists found that a large number of leftovers existed in the ancients of the Yangtze River delta. Later in Tang Dynasty (618-907), the mature mitten crabs from Yangcheng Lake were considered valuable tributes to the rulers of emperors. In addition, a book of Legendary Mitten Crab in the Song Dynasty (960–1279) narrated that East China’s Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces have great mitten crabs, and the ones from Yangcheng Lake in Suzhou were better with 0.5 kg in weight.
In fact, Chinese mitten crabs were introduced to Europe in the early 20th century and to the United States decades ago.
The selection of Chinese mitten crab
The 120 sq.km - Yangcheng Lake consist of two parts-West Lake and East Lake. Because the West Lake is situated in the town Bacheng within Kunshan city, so the mitten crab is named as Ba Cheng Yangcheng Lake hairy crab. And the East Lake lies in the city of Suzhou, so the crab is known as Suzhou Yangcheng Lake mitten crab. You can distinguish the authentic crabs by the independent codes certificated by the respective authorities from Bacheng or Suzhou.
Not only wild mitten crabs of Yangcheng Lake are sought after, but also the cultivated ones by the national scientific research institutes and private bases are favored. How to select an excellent mitten crab without a certificate? Please don’t miss the disciplines. For example, the crab shell must be in shiny dark green, the navel protrudes, the cheliped is full of fuzzy furs and moves energetically.
How to cook Chinese mitten crab?
Chinese mitten crabs are compatible with other ingredients, but there are three most classic recipes in Eastern China.
Steamed crab recipe
Wrapped the mitten crab with ropes, and you can put it into the bamboo steamer together with some gingers, perilla leaves, salts, and Chinese Shaoxing wine. Then steam it in the cooking pot with water. After the water boils, you still have to steam it at least 20 minutes. Before serving, it would be better to prepare some sauces and Chinese Shaoxing wine to pair with.
Crab brewed orange recipe
Prepare orange and get rid of the orange meat, leaving a bit of orange juice inside. Then it is time to fill the empty orange with mitten crab roes and meat. After covering the orange, put it into the cooking pot with Shaoxing wine and vinegar. Finally when the crab brewed orange is cooked, please remember to pair with some Chinese aged vinegar and salts to enhance its flavor.
Liquor-soaked crab recipe
The liquor sauce takes time to prepare. First of all, mix a handle of salts, onions, gingers, cinnamons, star anises, peppers with water together. Secondly, put the mixture liquid into the cooking pot to boil for a while. After getting rid of the impurity substances and cooling down, proper Kaoliang spirit and sugars are added into it. When dealing with the crab, keeping it alive in fresh water for 2-3 days will be encouraged. Wait until the crab clears on its own, please remember to add some salts in the crab navel. Finally, put the cleaned crab or steamed crab into the prepared liquor and store it with a seal for 10 days.
5 top tips to cook Chinese mitten crab
- No dead hairy crab is edible.
- Pair the crab roes with Chinese aged vinegar, ginger slices or onions.
- Serve the crab dishes with warm Chinese Shaoxing wine.
- Do not have the crabs with the fruits containing tannins, such as persimmon, rosa roxburghii, haw.
- Drink a cup of ginger tea to digest and keep warm in Chinese philosophy.