Steamed Crab With Chinkiang Vinegar and Ginger Recipe

Sweet crab meat is paired with a flavorful dipping sauce of ginger and vinegar. Fiona Reilly

Why It Works

  • A dipping sauce of sour Chinkiang vinegar balances the natural sweetness of the crabmeat.
  • Steaming the crabs in a two-tiered basket system makes cooks them quickly and efficiently.
  • In Shanghai, the arrival of fall signals the start of the much-anticipated hairy crab season. These small crabs, with their hairy mittens, have a rich, sweet flesh and roe. Unfortunately, hairy crab are considered an environmental pest in the USA; instead, substitute any small fresh or saltwater crab. The richness and sweetness of crabmeat goes perfectly with a sweet-and-sour dipping sauce flavored with Chinkiang vinegar and ginger. This dish is part of our seven-course Mid-Autumn Festival feast.

    Recipe Facts



    Active: 15 mins
    Total: 30 mins
    Serves: 4 servings

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    • 1 (2-inch) knob of ginger, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks, divided
    • 2 ounces Chinkiang vinegar
    • 2 ounces rice vinegar
    • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
    • 4 small fresh or saltwater crabs
    • Shaoxing wine for drinking (optional)


    1. Divide ginger equally 4 ways and place into 4 small bowls.

    2. Combine Chinkiang and rice vinegars with sugar in a small pan. Warm over low heat, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Let cool. Meanwhile, bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a wok or a large pot. Once cool, divide vinegar sauce into the 4 bowls with ginger.

    3. Clean crabs with a stiff-bristled brush under running water. If using a wok, place clean crabs shell-side down into two large bamboo steamer baskets, one over the other, and fit with lid. If using a Western-style pot, place crabs shell-side down in a standard steamer basket. Place steamer baskets over boiling water, cover if using a Western-style pot, and steam until crabs are cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.

    4. Serve crabs warm with vinegar and ginger dipping sauce.

    Special equipment

    Steamer baskets


    This dish is traditionally enjoyed with warmed Shaoxing wine. To do so, place a bottle in a container of hot water for several minutes and serve it alongside the crab in small cups.

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