Every few days our team will scour Shanghai’s dining scene for scrumptious dishes that’ll fill your belly without emptying your savings. Not to discriminate, we’ll search everywhere from bicycle carts to chic venues with twenty-course tasting menus, knowing that any spot could have the next Dish of the Day.
Spanner crab, called laohu xie (老虎蟹) or “Tiger Crab” in Mandarin, looks like something the Mars rover might stumble upon before its screen would go fuzzy. But don’t be fooled, this kooky critter is one of the main reasons we take that multi-transfer metro ride out to the Tongchuan Road Fish market week after week.
As far as we know, the only place selling spanner crab is a vendor at 896 Tongchuan road, a depot vending all manner of crabs, including Alaskan King and spider crab. Spanner crabs run you around 110RMB per kilo, so an average-sized one will set you back about 180-200RMB, which seems pricey, but still costs only around half as much as a spiny lobster (not to mention that it’s marked down almost exponentially from what you’d pay in the city).
Just whisk your crustacean back to your kitchen or to one of the many restaurants scattered about Tongchuan road or bisecting streets (we’ve mentioned our fave spots in the past) and have it cooked to your preference. We always go steamed.
Make sure to bring at least one other person. Despite the scrawny, pancaked appearance, rip off that shell and you’re in an impossibly complex labyrinth of white meat, tomalley, and pudding-like white blood. Just when you think you’ve demolished every morsel, you’ll rip off more shell to reveal another compartment bristling with tomalley-drenched meat. And the flesh is delicious; kind’ve like Maine lobster except more delicate and sweet. It’s so good that our table manners often go by the wayside, and discarded shells fly like from our mouths like bullet casings from a Gatling gun.
Last time on Dish of the Day: Mutton stew @ Yakexi
See a complete list of our Dish of the Day series here.
Have a recommendation for Dish of the Day? Let Shanghaiist’s food editor Benjamin Cost know at [email protected]!