How to eat the Female Shanghai Hairy Crab

Shanghai Hairy Crab (Female)

It’s the Shanghai Hairy Crab season! Many blogs have talked about their adventures with the said face-hugger but none have actually shown you how to eat one. This practical blog will attempt, in stunning digital format, to address this gaping gap in the food blogosphere.

Also, this blog, in an attempt to not boast about his Internet access to Google and Wikipedia, will not use the terms “Chinese Mitten Crab”, “Eriocheir Sinensis” or even “Big Sluice Crab” (which is a great name for a rock band).

Shanghai Hairy Crab (Female)

I am not a big seafood consumer, well-known for it actually; in fact – and I am not making this up – if you flip the dictionary to “Seafood”, my picture won’t be there. However, recently, I had the opportunity to sample the famous Shanghai Hairy Crab at a famous restaurant in Shanghai (more about this whacky dinner in another post). We were served, amongst other things, both the male and female of the species.

What struck me was the mean laughter from veteran crab-eaters whom I actually call “Friends” when I picked up a pair of scissors to dismember the crab. Apparently, you don’t need tools. However, how to access the tasty insides actually depend on the gender. Just like the technique for picking up women and men differ.

First of all, you need to identify the gender. Fortunately, unlike Humans, this is easy for crabs. Just look at the base of the crab. For the female, the base is smooth without a sharp “V”-shaped shell-thingy that all males have.

Shanghai Hairy Crab (Female)

At this time, I would like to check that you fully understand that what I am describing refers to the female Shanghai Hairy Crab. Right? OK, let’s move on!

The next step is to pull the flap down to expose what brings to mind ’80s porn or a famous Naked Eyes song from around the same time.

Shanghai Hairy Crab (Female)

Here’s a photo from another angle to show you what I mean.

What you do next is to rip off the flap and discard. You will then catch a glimpse of why the Shanghai Hairy Crab is most sort after: their roe.

Shanghai Hairy Crab (Female)

Now that she’s shorn and ready to be f Now, you flip her over, grip one side by the legs (left or right don’t matter as it’s all good) and gently lift the top carapace off.

Shanghai Hairy Crab (Female)

Do not discard the top carapace (Shell? Lid?) as there’s some good eating in there.

The final step before the eating is to grasp each set of legs in each hand and gently break her in two, exposing the glory of the roe.

But wait, AND THIS IS IMPORTANT, you will notice that there are some pale spindly things that look like legs; these are the crab’s gills. Fold them back or rip them out and discard.

I would advise against it, but there’s nothing stopping you from biting into them to see why they are also called “Dead Man’s Fingers”.

Shanghai Hairy Crab (Female)

Finally, take one of the halves, dip into a nice Chinese vinegar and garlic dip and enjoy the red rich tasty roe. Be sure to suck every morsel out. There is some meat in the legs but the effort to extract them outweigh any benefit or pleasure from eating them, so don’t bother.

Washed down with a refreshingly hot cup of ginger tea, you begin to realize why the Shanghai Hairy Crab is most sought-after. The whole process looks involved and long but it actually takes a few seconds and it’s more rewarding than watching and waiting for the service staff to do it for you which is oh so tres bourgeois.

Next up: The emasculation and eating of the Male Shanghai Hairy Crab.

Shanghai Hairy Crab (Female)

Posted on 9th Dec 2009 in Food and Drink, Fun, Shanghainese


There Are 8 Comments


XY (rexic) commented on December 9, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Great informative post! The pictures are really good and useful too! 😀


ivan commented on December 9, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Oh hi! Haven’t seen you in a while!


thehungrycow commented on December 13, 2009 at 10:48 pm

I saw people using the technique of extracting the flesh from the legs by using a leg segment to push into the adjacent leg segment. I tried for a while and failed. Beef is so much easier to eat!


ivan commented on December 17, 2009 at 11:24 am

@thehungrycow: It’s amazing how one can live without the bare necessities on just the luxuries in life. 🙂


ivanny commented on December 18, 2009 at 4:15 pm

i’m miss eating crabs!!! especially those with roe. goodness, now i miss them even more. haha…

oh yes, Queensland (Brisbane) bans any form of fishing of female crabs. *sigh* | How to eat the male Shanghai hairy crab commented on December 23, 2009 at 9:48 am

[…] Previously, this blog illustrated the way to eat the female Shanghai hairy crab. This time, in an attempt to balance the karmic score, this blog shall illustrate how to do in the male. […]


ivan commented on December 23, 2009 at 11:48 am

@ivanny: well, you can stock up the memories when you get back. 😛


[…] blog went to Shanghai and had the best Xiaolongbao there and wrote a short tutorial on how to eat out the female crab which happens to be a popular search topic on Google. Most of the weekends were spent either […]

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