Hairy crab season is here, and this highly prized crustacean has made a return to Shang Palace at Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore. Their current executive Chinese Chef Mok Kit Keung takes this autumn delicacy to another level with the new Hairy Crab Six-course Set Menu and a selection of a la carte dishes.
It is my virgin experience eating hairy crabs at a fine dining restaurant along with other exquisite hairy crab-themed dishes. And most importantly, I learned the art of eating hairy crabs with my bare hands and a pair of crab scissors. It is the greatest takeaway for that evening.
Ready to be indulged with my hairy crab tales?
But first things first, let’s get ourselves acquainted with Hairy Crab.
All About Hairy Crabs
Hairy crabs (a.k.a Chinese mitten crab) can be distinguished by their hairy legs and tufts of dark brown hair on their claws. They are prized for their rich and creamy roes: females have reddish roes, while males have yellowish roes. Female crabs are more sought after than male crabs because they produce much more roes which tasted more buttery and sweeter.
Autumn is the season for eating hairy crabs because that’s when they produced the most roe before the winter mating season begins. The peak season starts from mid-October to November. This is also the period where Chinese restaurants like Shang Palace begin to serve hairy crab-themed dishes.
They are roughly the size of a human palm. The cost of a hairy crab which weighs about 190 grams costs about an average of USD10.
Most of these crabs are sourced from mainland China as they are native to rivers and estuaries of east Asia.
Shang Palace is notably one of the more luxurious Chinese restaurants in town, and you can tell by their posh Imperial China settings and elegant dining ware. This is all part of the ‘Crazy Rich Asian’ experience in Singapore.
This is not to be mistaken for red wine. This is a shot of freshly brewed roselle tea which meant for cleansing your palette before savouring the delectable delicacies.
Foie Gras with Kumquat Jelly and Braised Hairy Crab with Diced Bean Curd served on Spring Onion Pancake (柚子甘桔鹅肝冻拼蟹粉豆腐葱油饼)
Firstly, we had our appetizers where we first get to taste some hairy crab meat. We were told to start off by pairing the braised hairy crab with diced bean curd together with the spring onion pancake.
Chef Mok spoils our tastebuds further with the slice of foie gras layered with Kumquat jelly and pomelo. I love the combination of the foie gras with the kumquat jelly that helps to tone down the richness of the foie gras. The slight tinge of a citrus note in the jelly helps to whey my appetite as well.
What a better way than to pair this autumn delicacy with fall flowers like Chrysanthemum?
Traditional Braised Yellow Eel Bisque with Shredded Abalone and Chrysanthemum (古法菊花鲍丝黃鳝羹)
I was told that the yellow eel is used in place of snakes to make this soup. The snake soup is a popular gourmet dish in Hong Kong and eaten for its medicinal properties.
This bowl of yellow eel bisque resembles the taste of Shark Fin’s soup. It is thick, viscous and very filling indeed. The crackers served at the side could be added into the soup to give it another dimension in taste.
Sautéed Garoupa with Asparagus and Hairy Crab Roe (蟹粉碧绿斑球)
The creamy crab roe is a more refined version of the egg yolk. The roe has this buttery umami taste that pairs well with the moist and flaky layers of the garoupa fish slice. I enjoyed the clean taste of the garoupa slices as well.
8-Year Old Yellow Wine
According to Chinese medicine, crabs are considered to be ‘cooling.’ Thus, the crab is usually paired with yellow wine (or huangjiu) made from fermented cereal grains to balance out the yin and yang elements. Like how the westerners would pair red wine with steak, the Chinese pairs a cup of good wine with this highly prized seafood.
Steamed Hairy Crab, served with Ginger Tea (清蒸大闸蟹配姜茶)
Here comes the star dish of that evening – steamed hairy crab! I thought the steamed crab would be presented in a fancy manner – perhaps with some garnishing to add a pop of colour. I was tad disappointed when it came out on its own, ‘cruising’ its way on a plain white plate from the kitchen to the table.
But I wasn’t too bothered by the presentation of the dish once I started putting on my gloves and getting ready to deshell the crab. When it comes to deshelling a crab, I’m somewhat a novice who also dislike the process of peeling or cracking shells just to extract the meat out.
Then came my saviour. When one of the waitresses saw me struggling with the crab in my hand, she came over to help me disassemble and clean it out. With the pair of crab scissors, she took the crab apart in such an artistic and systematic manner which left me dumbfounded. I never knew that deshelling a crab could be a form of art in itself.
She taught me an innovative way to obtain the lean pieces of meat found in the legs – that is to use the tips of the legs to push the crab meat out of the crab leg. I found a similar YouTube video on how to eat a hairy crab, and you can watch it right here.
The meat is usually eaten with ginger vinegar sauce which enhances the sweetness of the crab meat.
After devouring the crab, the waitress served us ginger tea to balance out the cooling effects of the crab.
Fried Glutinous Rice with Preserved Meat, Shrimp and Garlic (笼仔金蒜生虾腊味糯米饭)
This dish really came as a surprise. It’s a simple dish, yet it is so flavourful and aromatic.
Glutinous Rice Ball with Osmanthus and Sweet Fermented Glutinous Rice and Hakka Kueh (桂花酒酿丸子拼客家茶粿)
For desserts, we had this sweet fermented glutinous rice which has this porridge-like consistency. I like that it was not too overly sweet. The Hakka kueh, on the other hand, is leaning towards the savoury side. I actually wish they served something a little sweeter to end the meal on a sweet note.
Overall, it was an enjoyable hands-on dining experience. I’ve started to discover a little more about the intricacies of Chinese cuisine. Eating hairy crabs together makes a good family bonding activity.
This seasonal menu is available from 16 October to 30 November 2018.
A sumptuous six-course specialty set menu priced at SGD208++ per person. The hairy crab menus are available daily for both lunch and dinner.
Guests who indulge in the set menu will enjoy a complimentary a bottle of 8-year- old Chinese yellow wine (150ml).
For dining reservations and further information, please send an email to dining.sls@shangri- la.com or call (65) 6213 4398.
Prices are subject to 10% service charge and prevailing government tax.