Sunday, November 27, 2011

Autumn Achievements - Hairy Crab

This year's hairy crab season was enjoyed entirely outside of the home.  A touch of lazy, a touch of convenience.  No messy steaming, no messy washing up.  Smiles..

Go traditional at Hong Kong Lao Shang Hai, one of Hong Kong's oldest Shanghai restaurants, where waiters are still in the traditional white shirt and black trousers, but both garments are washed thin and have seen better days.  But the knowledge of the waiters on the food is unsurpassed and if you find one that's friendly enough to share, he is going to tell you what the real deal is and you shall follow his bid and enjoy a traditional Shanghainese meal in the heart of Wanchai.

Goose liver pate smeared with Zhejiang vinegar and honey
Yes, even the Chinese know a thing or two about their foie.  And this is one fine way of enjoying it.  Smooth liver paste served chilled and given a breath of acidity from the vinegar and honey "jam" over the top.  Not greasy and very enjoyable.  Only complaint - it's a mighty small serving.

Steamed hairy crab
Then the real McCoy arrives.  And yes, please Mr. Waiter, I would like you to help open it up.  And this one does not disappoint.  The golden yellow hue of the roe is a sight for sore eyes and the accompanying crushed ginger in Zhejiang vinegar is an excellent way to cut through the richness of the roe.

Shanghainese pulled noodles with stir fried hairy crab
A wonderful way to retain the taste of the hairy crab is to have more of it - finishing with stir fried hairy crab, generously slathered over an al dente hand pulled noodles.

Glutinous rice dumplings in Osmanthus and Fermented rice syrup
This is probably one of the best of its kind.  Extremely fragrant and without the usual cloying and tongue clinging sugariness in lesser bowls.

Xin Ji Shi's hairy crab bowl
For those really lazy and happen to be in Shanghai, just go to any Xin Ji Shi restaurant in the city and order a bowl of hairy crab.  No peeling, snipping and digging necessary.  It's all right there, stir fried with a hint of ginger and served in a generous deep terracotta bowl celebrating the crab.  Just open up and say aaaaaaaah........

For those who want a touch of swank, with awesome views from within the No. 1 Peking Road building, another Shanghainese brand has set up its "premier" outlet there.  Unfortunately, the Xiao Nan Guo in Hong Kong is not anywhere close in food standards to its Shanghainese mother.

Stir fried river shrimps with hairy crab

Spicy rice topped with hairy crab in a stone pot
The quality of the hairy crab used was unlike its name.  It certainly wasn't premier since it didn't taste or smell like the crustacean we are used to.  So despite clever creations, the punchline wasn't delivered and the joke was on the diner.  Quite unfortunate.

A decent enough season but lesson learnt - enjoying hairy crab season is an aged old Shanghainese tradition which can only be enjoyed at timeless places.  Forget the swank and just get down and dirty.  You'll be a lot happier.

老上海飯店 Hong Kong Lao Shang Hai Restaurant

UG1, Novotel Hong Kong Century, 238 Jaffe Road, Wan Chai
Tel: +852-2827 9339

新吉士酒楼(久光店) Xin Ji Shi Restaurant (Jiu Guang Department Store branch)
8th Floor, Jiu Guang Department Store, No. 1618 Nanjing Xi Lu, Jing An District (near Jing An temple)

Tel: +86-21-62883658

小南國壹號 Xiao Nan Guo Premier
10F, 1 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852-2527 8899


  1. I was soooo hoping it was somewhere in Singapore...
    I wept when i saw it is in HK :~

  2. Hi MissyGlutton
    HK is only 3.5 hours away! Come on over!!