Thursday, September 18, 2008

Chinese mitten crab

Chinese mitten crab, ''Eriocheir sinensis'', also known as the big binding crab and Shanghai hairy crab , is a medium-sized burrowing crab that is native in the coastal of eastern Asia from Korea in the north to the Fujian province of China in the south, but migrated to Europe and North-America.

Formerly in the Grapsidae, it is now placed in the Varunidae.

Description and ecology

This species' distinguishing features are the dense patches of dark hair on its claws. The crab's body is the size of a human palm. The carapace width is 30–100  and the legs are about twice as long as the carapace is wide.

Mitten crabs spend most of their life in fresh water, but they must return to the sea to breed. During their fourth or fifth year in late summer, the crustaceans migrate downstream, and attain sexual maturity in the tidal estuaries. After mating, the females continue seaward, overwintering in deeper waters. They return to water in the spring to hatch their eggs. After development as larvae, the juvenile crabs gradually move upstream into fresh water, thus completing the life cycle. The crabs can make significant inland migrations. It was reported in the London Evening Standard in 1995 that the residents of Greenwich, UK, saw the Chinese mitten crabs coming out of the River Thames and moving towards the High Street, and other reports indicate that the crabs have been known to take up residence in swimming pools. There is especial concern in areas with a substantial native crab fishery, such as the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and the Hudson River in New York , as the impact of the invasion by this species on the native population is unknown.


In contrast, the crab is a famous delicacy in Shanghai cuisine and is prized for the female crab's ovaries. The crab meat is believed by the Chinese to have a "cooling" effect on the body. Concerns have been raised that the population and origin of the crab may be affected because of overfishing of the species in the Yangtze River. Today Yangcheng Lake is the most famous area for the Chinese mitten crabs, however, the original species had been extirpated by the early 1990s. All you can find in Yangcheng Lake nowadays is a Japanese relative that was introduced around 2000.

Chinese spend hundreds of just to taste a small crab from that lake. But even these are in fact the more robust Japanese mitten crabs, as the original native stock in Yangcheng Lake has disappeared. Most of the Yangcheng crabs are exported to Shanghai and Hong Kong, and high-profit foreign markets. Responding to the spread of the crab to the West, businessmen have started seeing it as the new source of crab for supporting the huge appetite in China market. One proposed scheme involves importing unwanted crabs from Europe, where they are seen as a pest, to replenish local pure-bred stock.

The mitten crabs had exhibited a remarkable ability to survive in highly modified aquatic habitats, including polluted waters.

Shanghai cuisine

Shanghai cuisine , also known as ''Hu cai'' is a popular style of Chinese cuisine.


Shanghai does not have a definitive cuisine of its own, but refines those of the surrounding provinces . What can be called Shanghai cuisine is epitomized by the use of alcohol. Fish, eel, crab, and chicken are "drunken" with spirits and are briskly cooked/steamed or served raw. and preserved vegetables are also commonly used to spice up the dish.

The use of sugar is common in Shanghainese cuisine and, especially when used in combination with soy sauce, effuses foods and sauces with a taste that is not so much sweet but rather savory. Non-natives tend to have difficulty identifying this usage of sugar and are often surprised when told of the "secret ingredient." The most notable dish of this type of cooking is "sweet and sour spare ribs" .

"Red cooking" is a popular style of stewing meats and vegetables associated with Shanghai.

"Beggar's Chicken" is a legendary dish of Beijing origin , called "jiaohua ji" in the Shanghainese dialect, wrapped in leaves and covered in clay. Though usually prepared in ovens, the original and historic preparation involved cooking in the ground. The and are also uniquely Shanghainese, as are Shanghai fried noodles, a regional variant of chow mein that is made with Shanghai-style thick noodle. Lime-and-ginger-flavoured and stinky tofu are other popular Shanghainese delicacies.

Facing the East China Sea, seafood in Shanghai is very popular. However, due to its location among the rivers, lakes, and canals of the Yangtze Delta, locals favor freshwater produce just as much as saltwater products like crabs, oysters, and seaweed. The most famous local delicacy is Shanghai hairy crab.

Shanghainese people are known to eat in delicate portions , and hence the servings are usually quite small. For example, famous s from Shanghai such as the ''xiaolong mantou'' and the ''shengjian mantou'' are usually about four centimetres in diameter, much smaller than the typical ''baozi'' or ''mantou'' elsewhere.

Due to the rapid growth of Shanghai and its development into one of the foremost East Asian cities as a center of both finance and contemporary culture, the future of Shanghai cuisine looks very promising.

Unlike Cantonese or Mandarin cuisine, Shanghainese restaurant menus will sometimes have a dessert section.

Shanghai Foods

Sheng Jian

Breakfast is commonly bought from corner stalls which sells pork buns, for the best ''xiaolongbao'' . These stalls also sell other types of buns, such as ''Shengjian mantou'' and , all eaten dipped in black vinegar.

A typical breakfast combination is youtiao, a dough-like food that is deep fried in oil until crisp and is eaten in all parts of China, wrapped in thick pancake, accompanied by soy milk.

Da Zha Xie

Da Zha Xie a special crab found in the Yangtze River. And it is normally consumed in the winter . The crabs are tied with ropes/strings, placed in bamboo containers, steamed and served.

Typical Shanghainese breakfast

In Shanghainese cuisine, '''' is sometimes consumed together with soy milk as breakfast.

Crispy chicken

One of the local favourites in Shanghai is Shanghai crispy chicken. Crispy chicken is made by first boiling the body of a chicken until its flesh is tender, then roasting it for long periods of time or until the skin goes dry and crispy.

Lion's head

Lion's head is a dish from the Huaiyang cuisine of , consisting of large pork meatballs stewed with vegetables. There are two varieties: the white , and the . The plain variety is usually stewed or steamed with napa cabbage. The red variety can be stewed with cabbage or cooked with bamboo shoots and tofu derivatives. The in the meatball tends to be made from fatty pork , often with some chopped for textural variation.

The name derives from the shape of the cabbage, which together with the meatball and a bit of imagination, resembles a lion's head.

The dish originated from the region of Yangzhou and Zhenjiang in Jiangsu province, with the plain variety more common in Yangzhou and the red variety more common in Zhenjiang. The dish became a part of Shanghai cuisine with the influx of migrants in the and early 20th Century.

In Northern China, especially in Beijing, the dish is known as "Sixi Wanzi" because the meatballs are usually served in a set of four. These meatballs tend to be smaller than the variety.