Hairy crab — the prized delicacy that is only available from October to November each year. You’ll recognise it from its distinctive dark green shell (before it’s popped into the steamer, of course), and its fuzzy brown claws that earned the hairy crab its name. Loved for its natural sweetness and buttery roe, knowing how to cook hairy crab properly is key in enhancing the deliciousness of this dish.
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Here, we speak to Head Chef Ng Sen Tio of acclaimed Cantonese restaurant YAN in National Gallery Singapore for expert tips on preparing this seasonal delicacy.
How to cook hairy crab
Never handled live crabs before? Fret not! The trick is to keep the string ties on — so the crabs don’t scuttle off! — and clean the crabs one at a time. When ordering live hairy crabs, it’s best to cook them on the day itself instead of storing them in the freezer.
Cleaning the hairy crabs
Step 1: Prepare a basin of cold water and fill it with ice cubes. The icy water is essential to keeping the live crabs, well, live.
Step 2: Place one crab (yes, still with the string ties on) into the icy bath. Use a stiff brush to scrub the crab gently, making sure to clean all sides.
Step 3: Rinse off the crab in cold water and flip it belly side up on the steaming dish.
Step 4: Repeat steps one to three with the remaining crabs.
Easy steamed hairy crab recipe
Got yourself a cleaned crustacean but wondering how to cook hairy crab? There are many ways to enjoy hairy crab, be it with fried rice or stir-fried, but one of the easiest and most delicious is to savour the natural sweetness of the fleshy meat by simply steaming it.
Says chef Ng of YAN restaurant: “The flesh of hairy crab is naturally sweet and does not require condiments during the steaming process, unlike mud and flower crabs that are usually cooked with ginger, garlic or light sauce.”
- 5 Hairy crabs (live), weighing up to 250g each
- 5 Dried perilla leaves (one for each crab)
- 1 small block Brown sugar
- 100ml Black vinegar
- Minced ginger
1. Place a dried perilla leaf on the belly side of each crab. This will add fragrance to the steaming process.
2. Steam the hairy crabs at high heat for 25 minutes. Leave to cool.
3. To prepare the dipping sauce, let the black vinegar simmer at low heat for a few minutes
4. Add the block of brown sugar bit by bit, to your taste.
5. Stir the mixture continuously until all the sugar is dissolved. Leave to cool.
6. Serve the steamed hairy crabs with the dipping sauce. Add the minced ginger to the dipping sauce just before you dig in. The dish can be served hot or cold.
How to shell hairy crab without making a mess
Now that you know how to cook hairy crab, it’s time for the tricky part — peeling and shelling the freshly-steamed crab without making a mess! Chef Ng shares some handy tips on how to peel the notoriously challenging hairy crabs, so you can indulge while keeping your fingers mostly clean at the same time.
Step 1: Remove the triangular/oval apron of the crab located on the underbelly and discard it. Remove the top carapace and set aside.
Step 2: Use a spoon to remove the non-edible crab gills within the body, which are the grey spongy strips on the sides, and discard.
Step 3: Break off the pincers and remove the legs by cutting them off with scissors. Set these aside. Holding the body with both hands, break it into two halves to reveal the meat and creamy roe.
Step 4: For the pincer claws, cut along the sides of the biggest segment to reveal the flesh within.
Step 5: The legs are divided into three sections. Cut off the sections at each joint. Cut off and discard the middle sections. Use the smaller sections to insert into the larger joint to push the leg meat out. You can also use a chopstick to coax the meat out.
Learn how to cook and savour hairy crab this season
Sometimes, keeping it simple really is best. Enjoy the hairy crab season with our easy tips on how to cook hairy crab! Be sure to check out our great deals if you’re searching for where to buy live hairy crabs in Singapore. Alternatively, read on for our top picks on where to get seafood delivery in Singapore and enjoy a feast at home!