Why It Works
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.
- 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)
Divide ginger equally 4 ways and place into 4 small bowls.
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.
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.
Serve crabs warm with vinegar and ginger dipping sauce.
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.