We expats are generally not as willing to hemorrhage yuan for hairy crab as our Chinese compatriots. For many of us, 500RMB at a banquet for one spindly crustacean is fake market-level fleecing, while prices of dishes using the roe make us wonder if they’re laced with cocaine. So we rounded up five deals that allow you to save cash without scrimping on quality. Hurry, hairy crab season only lasts about another week!
Scrambled eggs with hairy crab roe @ Hai Jinzi
Nothing makes you feel like more of a high roller than eating scrambled eggs with hairy crab (蟹粉蛋, xièfěn dàn). It says “I don’t need to get gussied up and go to a hotel banquet once a year for my hairy crab fix like you scuzz, I have for breakfast while in my slippers and bathrobe.” Fortunately this is pretty easy when it’s only 16RMB. That’s right, Hai Jinzi’s compilation of eggs, hairy crab meat and roe, and vinegar costs less than a cup of noodles. Granted, the traces of hairy crab are so minute you’d need a diamond loupe to make them out, but again, only 16RMB. Also, this dish is more about capturing the essence of hairy crab alla seafood risotto than displaying big chunks of meat.
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.
Braised dry bean curd with crab meat @ Cheng Long Hang Xie Wangfu
Braised hard bean curd with crab meat (蟹粉老豆腐, xièfěn lǎo dòu fu) is essentially the same as crab meat with tofu (蟹粉豆腐, xièfěn dòu fu) except with grizzled dry tofu instead of silky blocks of soft tofu, as well as more broth. It’s much rarer, up to 100RMB cheaper, and in our opinion, light-years more delicious. Whereas, the soft tofu repels the golden crab broth, the porous hunks of dry tofu sop it right up. When you’re done plundering the tofu, guzzle the deep orange lagoon of liquid hairy crab underneath.
Cheng Long Hang Xie Wang Fu – 216 Jiujiang Lu, near Henan Zhong Lu (九江路216号, 近河南中路). Tel: (0)21-6321-2010. Hours: 11am-2pm, 5-11pm.
Hairy crab xiaolongbao @ Jia Jia Tang Bao
Forget that mutant Cronut, hairy crab xiaolongbao (蟹粉小笼包, xièfěn xiǎo lóng bāo) is the best splicing of two delicious foods. Few sights rouse our hunger more than crab roe-laced pork gleaming underneath a veil of dough skin, enticing you to poke the dumpling’s belly so it spurts out in a golden fountain of crab and pork juice. Jia Jia Tang Bao offers one of our favorite versions, which at only 27RMB for 12, is one of the best hairy crab deals in town. Best times to get there are before noon on weekdays and around 7am on weekends.
Jia Jia Tang Bao – 90 Huanghe Lu, near Fengyang Lu (黄河路90号, 近凤阳路). (0)21-6327-6878. Hours: 6:30am-10pm.
Whole hairy crab @ the Tongchuan Fish Market
Sorry expats, you can’t officially lose your hairy crab V-card until you eat the whole crustacean, arduous task though it is. Unfortunately, picking out good hairy crab for a good price in Shanghai can evoke finding a discount Rolex, because cheap ones are often counterfeit. Your best bet is the Tongchuan Fish Market where they offer generally reliable Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs in small (38-50RMB), medium (70-200RMB), or large (200-300RMB) sizes, as well as cheaper specimens from Tai Lake. Buy your fill at one of the vendors and take them to a nearby restaurant or lug them home.
Tongchuan Road Seafood Market – Tongchuan Road, near Lanxi Road (海鲜美食街, 铜川路, 近兰溪路). Closest Metro Stop: Zhenru (真如) Line 11.
Hairy crab set meal @ Kong Yi Ji Jiu Jia
They say you can’t get a good multi-course hairy crab for 300RMB, and they’re right. Kong Yi Jiu Jia’s is 170RMB. The trick is they use more male crab meat, but it’s nonetheless incredible to tuck into an 9-course hairy crab spread (not including palate cleansers) for less than the cost of one dish at most other banquets.
The crabstravaganza kicks off with steamed hairy crab claws that’ve been “de-gloved” save for the bit of shell on the finger. Simply use the tuft of white meat like a calligraphy brush to mop up the vinegar dip and then chomp it. You’ll probably need the aid of a toothpick to tease the finger meat out of the little claw prongs.
Course two consists of shreds of meat (xiefen) mounded on a plate. It doesn’t compare to the heaping tuna fish-esque portions found at other spots, and lacks roe, but it’s a satisfying mouthful.
Course three entails whole steamed male hairy crab. Then it’s onto glass noodles with crab roe and meat, followed by a plate of crab legs and bitter melon, and then one of our favorite renditions of crab meat with tofu (蟹粉豆腐, xièfěn dòu fu) in the city. The portion’s a tad precious but the ivory-white tofu tiles are some of the meltiest we’ve ever eaten.
And just as you think you’re rounding home base, they bombard you with vegetable wontons in hairy crab roe broth, hairy crab lion’s head meatball, and hairy crab with fried noodles on top of the hairy crab with glass noodles. You “seal the meal” with a hot cup of ginger tea and red bean, which provides insurance against stomach bugs.
Kong Yi Ji Jiujia – 36-40 Xuegong Lu, near Wenmiao Lu (学宫路36-40号, 近文庙街). Tel: (0)21-6376-7979. Hours: 10am-9pm.
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Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].