Everyone Deserves Their Crabby Moment
How can you not like crabs?
They walk sideways, have funny, googly eyes sticking up, and you can play with mallets making a big mess while eating them.
They come in different shapes and sizes all over the world. Their names can be pretty like Snow or off-putting like Mud, they can be brown or blue or speckled, giant or the size of your thumb. Some are prized for their roe, as for making Maryland She-Crab Soup, and others for their succulent, ample meat served dripping in butter, and some in regional specialties like Singapore Chilli Crab (best enjoyed al fresco on Clarke Quay overlooking the Singapore River) or Crab Stuffed Chilis in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
There are so many varieties that one could do an Around the World in Eighty Crabs trip.
One autumnal craving in China is the craze for Hairy Crabs, sitting in markets, bound with bamboo to look like little papooses. Their claim to fame is a particularly rich roe. At their meatiest in the fall months, they’re enjoyed by everyone who can afford them.
Distant relatives of these little monsters are the speckled crabs you find in the market in Viet Nam.
Europeans use every kind of crab they can pull out of the water, from the large box crabs (not unlike Pacific Dungeness crabs and the ones fished off New England) to tiny ones which find their way into piles of teeny sea creatures sold in French markets (particularly in Provence) labeled Soupe de Poisson.
People who dwell by the sea can often be seen dangling a bitten up chicken leg off of a string, then happily pulling up a hungry crab.
Some Yangon, Myanmar, denizens make a meager living by capturing crabs to sell on the streets, letting them run wild to advertise their freshness. My guide there took pity on the crustaceans, purchasing all of them from the delighted vendor, then proceeding to the dock to set them free.
Soft shelled crabs are a summertime treat, whether lightly sautéed or in an Asian dish (substituted shrimp, for example). Freshly molted, most are now commercially fished while hard, then held until molting time and transferred to a protected area where they’ll survive until they find their way to a market and a kitchen.
One thing offsetting the onset of winter is that stone crab season has begun. You no longer have to be in Florida to savor them. That is, of course, if you have really good seafood stores or restaurants selling the claws, the only part used, fresh, not frozen. The idiosyncrasy of this type of warm water crab is that one of its claws is designed to fall off in battle, and it regenerates. So the crabbers only take the one, skillfully knowing how to do so without fatally injuring the animal, and leave the beasts to live another day (and grow another claw in about a year’s time).
Now, you go have yourself a crabby, crabby day.