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Taste the beauty of Chongming Island
(Shanghai Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-19 09:57

Chongming's Dong Ping National Forestry Park.
Well-known for vast green woods, fertile soil, whirling reeds and crossing rivers, Chongming Island is also a paradise for "belly-gods."

Hairy crabs are among the island's numerous food products, yet the fresh water crustaceans have, by far, the best reputation.

At the mouth of the Yangtze River, Chongming or the "Shangri-la of Shanghai" as it claims to be, has a pleasant climate, loamy land and sufficient water.

It's an ideal environment for hairy crabs.

Food is abundant for the little crustacean. Seaweed, rotted plants, as well as plankton, clams and mussels are found in large supplies.

The area is also one of the biggest breeding grounds for baby crabs in the country.

Every year from May to June during the crabs' reproduction period, the estuary of the Yangtze River is clogged with boats from neighboring provinces. Of course, they are fishing for baby crabs.

Compared with Yangchenghu Lake crabs in Jiangsu Province and Honghu Lake crabs in Hubei Province - the country's other two famous crab producing areas - Chongming crustaceans are smaller. Each weighs no more than 150 to 200 grams, yet Chongming crabs are plump and tasty.

Female crabs have a round belly while male ones are recognized by its pointed belly.

It is commonly said that the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar is the best time to eat female crabs as they are full of protein and roe. The tenth month is better for male crabs.

When cooked, the crab gradually changes color from dark green to gold, a sure sign for the best test.

Shou An Temple in east Chongming Island.
The creamy roe and the white meat under the hard shell are highly nutritious.

Each 100 grams of Chongming crab contains 14 grams of protein, 5.9 grams of fat, 129 milligrams of calcium, 145 milligrams of phosphorus, 13 milligrams of iron and plenty of vitamins.

Crabs are best consumed soon after purchase. If cooking a hairy crab at home, wrap it properly with straw before steaming to ensure the freshness and tightness of the meat.

However, since crabs are considered a "cold" food according to Chinese medicine, one should not eat too many at one time.

Usually they are served with ginger and vinegar, eaten along with yellow rice wine, which are "warm" foods.

Because of its small size, it is also good to cook Chongming crabs in a flour coating or steam them in oil and brown sauce.

Famous hairy crab delicacies include wine preserved crab, meat balls with crab and stewed bean curd with crab ovary.

Apart from crabs, Chongming Island is famous for Jin Gua, a yellow melon also called "vegetable jelly." It's in season now and known for its refreshing taste. Locals use it to make cold dishes.

The island's other food products include eel, goat, cabbage, fragrant taro and sweet chestnuts.

A weak, clear alcohol is also produced on Chongming. The sweet, yet sour beverage is growing in popularity.

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