Bigger, tastier treat for crab fans

Wang Wu, a professor from Shanghai Ocean University, holds up the “king” hairy crab, weighing 616 grams, yesterday during a national hairy crab contest in the city. The crab “queen” weighed in at 390 grams.

Diners should find hairy crabs bigger and tastier this year, thanks to favorable summer weather, experts said yesterday.

Scorching temperatures and high rainfall in 2010 hampered the growth of crabs, reducing their size and flavor.

But less extreme weather this summer has led to larger and more succulent crabs, said the Shanghai Fisheries Trade Association.

Yesterday, a national contest to find the hairy crab “king” and “queen” took place on Nanjing Road, attracting tens of thousands of crustacean fans.

Hairy crabs are becoming a popular dish across China, with 590,000 tons eaten last year, and the amount expected to reach 600,000 tons this year.

A decade ago, Chinese devoured just 180,000 tons of hairy crabs a year.

“Improved ecological breeding technology and increasing popularity of the cuisine among Chinese explain the growth in consumption,” said Fan Shoulin, secretary of the association.

However, many Chinese consumers have little idea about how to select the best crabs, claim experts.

“People blindly rely on the brand and have little knowledge about how to select fatty, juicy crabs,” claimed Wang Wu, a professor at Shanghai Ocean University, the organizer of the contest. 

Many people believe the best crabs come from Yangcheng Lake in Suzhou, in Jiangsu Province. Cashing in on this, many dealers brand low-quality crabs with fake Yangcheng Lake labels.

“In reality, it’s very difficult for consumers to get hold of real Yangcheng Lake crabs because only 3 in 1,000 crabs (on the markets) are from there,” said Wang.

Wang recommends customers choose a fat crab, smell it to ensure it’s fresh and then place it on its back. If it can right itself, that shows it’s healthy.

Around 40 breeders entered almost 1,000 crabs in the contest.

The crab king, from Anhui Province, weighed 616 grams — setting a record. His queen, from Jiangxi Province, weighed in at 390 grams.

Crabs on the markets usually weigh between 150 and 200 grams.