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Grab a hairy crab
(Shanghai Daily)
Updated: 2004-10-15 10:02

It's the right season to treat yourself with a good serving of luscious crabs. Take an autumn outing to the Yangcheng Lake - a famous crab-breeding area situated to the northeast of Suzhou, Jiangsu Province.

These tiny, tasty crustaceans mature between September and December. During crab time, ancient Chinese poets usually pen verses on the joys of sipping wine and eating crab under an autumn moon. The classic Chinese novel, "A Dream of Red Mansions," even depicts an unforgettable grand crab feast to amaze one's taste buds.

A one-day trip includes boating on the picturesque Yangcheng Lake, visiting crab-breeding ponds, picking caltrops and travelling through the Jinxi scenic resort, a beautiful water town with a history of more than 2,000 years.

The highlight is, of course, enjoying the reputed Yangcheng hairy crabs together with other local cuisine. With distinctive features including golden brown claws, white abdomen and green carapace, Yangcheng crabs boast a tender meat, rich in nutrition with a strong fragrance.

As hairy crabs are "cooling" to the body, a crab meal usually is accompanied with warmed Shaoxing rice wine, a perfect with this steamed delicacy. Sherry is also a reasonable substitute.

But the trick to have the best crab is in the visuals. To have the best pick, make sure to choose the bubbling crabs with vigorous claws and pincers as well as quick and glaring eyes. When the steamed crabs are served with minced ginger and vinegar, it's the time to roll up the sleeves.

First, take the apron and top shell of the crab off. It is where the roe is on female crabs - a savory area for tasting. Then pull off the crab legs. Chopstick-poking and digging can push the meat out from the crab legs. Remember to have the crab legs first - just as a warm-up before having the most delicious part - and don't open the crab body until you finish all the legs to keep the crab meat warm inside.

It's said that all the flesh on this little creature can been devoured except the lungs and intestines, which may contain harmful substances and bacteria. Never eat crabs with persimmon, a seasonal fruit. This harmful mix can pose a threat to one's intestines. Some Shanghainese are really good at eating hairy crabs and can do so leaving the whole shell intact. Well that sounds like mission impossible for most people, so just have fun and get into it.

Gathering time: October 23, 8:15am
Gathering place: Shanghai Museum, 201 People's Ave (5 minutes walk from No. 3 exit, People's Square metro station)
Cost: 238 yuan
Tel: 5111-3878, 5111-3879

Please register by October 18 at Mandarin Times (1413 Silver Tower, 933 Zhongshan Rd W.) or Shanghai-Expat Office (B017 23/F, 283 Zhejiang Rd M.)

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