Sugared & Spiced

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[Shanghai] Hairy Crab Feast at Wei Jing Ge 蔚景閣大閘蟹宴

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Wei Jing Ge 蔚景閣 at the Waldorf Astoria

Add: Waldorf Astoria Club Level 5, 2 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu 上海外滩华尔道夫酒店5楼 中山东一路2号
Tel: 6322 9988
Hours: 11:30am-3pm, 5:30-11pm
Price: [hairy crab set menu] 688 RMB/person + 15%
Visited: Oct 2011

Please note that this is an arranged tasting.

Ladies and gentlemen, ’tis the season for hairy crabs! Locals go crazy over these priced delicacies, while foreigners are often clueless as to why this meatless crustacean is so sought after. Whether you like it or not, this is a must-try in terms of cultural experience. I was lucky to have my first hairy crab of the season at Wei Jing Ge 蔚景閣, an elegantly designed Chinese restaurant at the Waldorf Astoria on the Bund. Without further ado, here is the grand feast…

The meal began quietly with a plate of Marinated Appetizers 匯江南五式.

…and quickly crescendoed with a baked crab shell stuffed with wild mushrooms 野山菌焗蟹蓋. Careful encasing locked in all the flavors during baking, and when the wrapping is finally picked open, a whiff of aroma hits the air.

Next, a bowl of hairy crab meat soup with green vegetable 蟹粉薺菜羹. The thickened soup, ladened with generous chunks of tender crab meat, is flavorful with an evident hint of vinegar. Refined yet hearty.

The following dish was braised mushroom with fish maw 松茸花胶件. Fish maw (a.k.a.air bladder), a rather precious ingredient, has a gelatinous consistency that is slightly reminiscent of beef tendons. Though its texture and flavor might not be instantly pleasing, I’ve acquired  liking of these over the years.

The centerpiece of the meal, of course, is the classic steamed hairy crab 清蒸大閘蟹. Truth be told, I’m horrible at eating hairy crabs, but here’s a very nicely illustrated guide for those who wish to learn the proper way of polishing off a hairy crab. It goes without saying that Waldorf selects top quality crabs and steam them to perfection. Carefully fish out the fatty crab roe and the delicate meat (easier said than done), dip them in the accompanying vinegar flavored with ginger, sugar, and salt, then into the mouth they go. Mmmm.

Here are some tools to help you dismantle the crab. The plier for cracking open crab claws, the scissors for cutting crab feet, and the skinny fork for picking out every last bit of your crab meat. Apparently these are for the amateurs. Seasoned hairy crab eaters just use their hands and teeth.

Eating hairy crabs is an inevitably messy affair. Here’s a bowl of chrysanthemum water to clean your hands with after the feat. Do NOT drink.

As hairy crabs are a “cold” food by Chinese standards, it is typical to pair it with Shaoxing yellow wine or ginger tea to balance the yin and yang.

Following the steamed hairy crab was baked eggplant with hairy crab meat 蟹粉焗茄子. Thoroughly baked to the point of near disintegration. A fine (albeit unattractive) dish.

One of my favorites of the night was soup noodles with crab meat 蟹粉陽春麵. The noodles themselves were memorably delicious, and when piled on with a thick blanket of flavorful crab meat and crab roe…oh, my gosh.

The meal ended with a fruit plate and a bowl of warm sweetened almond soup. Perfect.

What a meal. For me, this is the perfect way to savor hairy crabs, as the set menu not only showcases them in their pure (steamed) form, but also integrates hairy crabs with other ingredients to create some truly spectacular dishes. When else to try this but now?

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Written by sugarednspiced

October 19th, 2011 at 11:45 pm