By ESTHER CHANDRAN, The Star Online
Monday November 12, 2007
These little fellows, however, hold an esteemed position in the world of crabs during autumn as they are highly sought after and diners would pay what many of us would consider ridiculous prices just to get a taste. In some countries, crab lovers have been known to fork out a hefty US$30 for a single crab!
Not just any hairy crab, though; it has to be hairy crabs from the Yang Cheng Lake in the north-east of Suzhou in Jiangsu province, China.
These crustaceans with hairs on the bottom shell and legs are loved for their creamy roe and sweet, succulent meat.
Diners think nothing of prying fastidiously with a picker to get the fleshy “ore”out.
Well, we are lucky as the Yang Cheng Lake hairy crabs are in our midst and they do not cost an arm and a leg to savour.
At Restoran King Crab in Taman Mewah Jaya, Petaling Jaya (opposite the Kelana Jaya LRT station), they are priced between RM38 and RM118 per piece.
The tip is to choose a bigger crab, as there is relatively more meat to relish in comparison to the smaller ones.
Owner Datuk Marcus Kam said the crab roe was described as the caviar of the East.
Kam had tried the crabs in Shanghai and decided to ship them in so his customers would be privy to the juicy crabs.
“The meat of the Yang Cheng Lake hairy crab is sweet and they are considered super premium crabs.
King Crab outlets in Petaling Jaya and Johor Baru sell about 800 to 1,000 crabs a week.
“The crabs are seasonal so when they arrive from China, customers rush to try them,” Kam said.
He said the crabs were still affordable but expected the price to skyrocket in the future.
To guarantee the authenticity of the Yang Cheng Lake hairy crabs, each carries an identification tag with a serial number to distinguish them as the real deal.
To savour the natural taste, these crabs are best steamed, the meat relished with only a touch of black vinegar and ginger.
However, most of us decided to appreciate the delicate flesh without the sauce.
The white meat was a sweet surprise, well worth the tedious work with the pick to find it.
The roe was not overcooked and served in its slightly custard-like consistency, as cooked roe is dark vermilion and rather tough.
The creamy roe is rich and the crabmeat abundantly flavourful.
Eating these hairy crabs can be a little tricky so group financial controller Frankie Lew showed us how.
First he broke off the crab claws and then used a pair of scissors to trim off the legs.
Then Lew opened the flap at the bottom and removed the gills, after which he searched for the little white heart before it was ready to be savoured.
The outlet's waiters and waitresses are usually available to show first-time diners the right way to eat these crabs.
Lew said hairy crabs were considered cooling and he advised us to savour warm ginger tea to help warm up the body.
The hairy crab promotion runs till January.
The outlet also has Tai Hu hairy crabs and other crab dishes like the famous Chilli Crab from Ponggol in Singapore.
Kam, who frequented the Ponggol Pier as a teenager, often went to the Chilli Crab outlet.
“I never forgot the taste of the Chilli Crab and today we serve it at King Crab,” said the boy from Johor Baru.
Seafood dishes here are affordably priced and great importance is placed on quality and sumptuous serving of dishes.
“Our policy is to present food tasting its best,” Kam said.
RESTORAN KING CRAB,
No 103-107, Jalan SS25/2,
Taman Mewah Jaya, Petaling Jaya
(Tel: 03-7808 2388).
Business hours: Daily, lunch (11am to 2.30pm),
dinner (6pm to 10.30pm)