It’s hairy crab season! It has been a tradition for many Hong Kong families to eat hairy crabs before they hibernate in winter. Why eat them now? As crabs are cold-blooded animals, they are the plumpest with the most paste in late autumn to early winter as they prepare to go into hiding.
The Chinese Mitten Crab, commonly known as Hairy Crab, is a medium sized burrowing crab found predominantly in East Asia, residing in coastal areas such as in Yangtze. It has a body the size of a human fist. As the Chinese saying goes「九月圓臍十月尖」(September round, October sharp), it is common practice to eat female crabs in September and male crabs in October. One can easily distinguish between them by looking at their umbilicuses or navels – just turn them over and look at the white tip in the middle – females have round ones (as shown in the photo below) while males have sharp ones.
Getting the Hairy Crabs
Find out where you can get hairy crabs in Hong Kong with this interactive story map.
As hairy crabs are cool-natured food, remember to drink a bowl of ginger tea or two afterward to warm your belly, and to get rid of the fishy smell in your mouth. Other warm-natured foods to help you balance your internal temperature include yellow wine, red dates, ginseng, and lamb. White and red wine should be avoided as they contain tanning, which forms albumin tannate with protein from the crabs in your stomach. This makes it difficult for your body to digest, causing stomachaches and diarrhea. If you really can’t go a day without wine, please make sure to drink at least two hours after consuming hairy crabs!