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.
For Shanghainese, hairy crab is the gastronomic grail; an eat so delicious they’ll pay 500RMB for one crustacean, and don’t mind tediously teasing slivers of meat thinner than dental floss from its claws. The puniness presents no obstacle. In fact, the smaller females are preferred due to their buttery roe and ridges on their belly, which symbolize “layers of energy.” Longtime Shanghai restaurateur Mr. Hu even claims the meticulous dissection involved in eating such foods sharpens the mind, like a culinary Rubik’s Cube. So if you’re in this camp you probably don’t need me telling you where to get hairy crab, but we prefer the Tongchuan Fish Market.
Then there are laowai who like hairy crab meat but can’t abide the “microsurgery” required to extract it. Even famous foodies like Anthony Bourdain agree there isn’t enough bang for your “shuck.” If this is you, definitely go for shell-less crab meat dishes like Jia Jia Tang Bao’s crab roe xiaolongbao, tofu with hairy crab (蟹粉豆腐, xièfěn dòu fu) at multiple locations, and one of our faves, scrambled eggs with crab roe (蟹粉蛋, xièfěn dàn) at Hai Jinzi.
It’s basically eggs scrambled with sprinkles of hairy crab meat and roe and dashed with vinegar, but out of all the “fancy pants” scrambled egg dishes – caviar eggs, truffle eggs etc., – this is the tastiest, and cheapest (only 16RMB!). The already creamy eggs are made even creamier by the crab eggs and meat, while the vinegar’s acidity cuts the sweetness nicely. For those who need a primer before tackling whole crab, this is a good place to start. Just make sure to get there at around 5pm for dinner so you don’t have to endure an hour-long wait.
Stay tuned, we’ll have more hairy crab goodness scuttling your way soon.
Hai Jinzi – 240 Jinxian Lu, near Shaanxi Nan Lu (进贤路240号, 近陕西南路). Tel: (0)21-6255-0371. Hours: 11am-1:45pm lunch, 5-9:30pm dinner.
Last time on Dish of the Day: Cabbage with smoked bacon @ South Memory
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 know at [email protected]!