Here they are on parade!
It is quite fortuitous that hairy crab season always coincides with the Shanghai fabric fair. The first time I was there for the fair, I was traveling alone so I ended up eating with my blackberry in one hand and my hairy crab in the other so I could figure out how to maneuver the meat out of the little guy. (Or really, so I could figure out the parts NOT to eat.) Thankfully, I was facing the window because hairy crabs are not a tidy meal. There is dripping and sucking and slurping and crunching. Hey, you just paid about 50 euros for this baby, you don't want to miss a bit!
I was lucky enough to have hairy crab TWICE this time around. And to share them with friends (who actually took over some carapace removal for me). I think they did so because they were tired of waiting for me to finish my crab so that all of us could move onto the next course. I came away with a few cuts (the hairy crab is a tough beast), and the question "is all of this work really worth it?" popped into my head more than once... but still, if someone put a hairy crab in front of me right now, I would probably go for it.
I decided to read a little more about the hairy crab when I got back, and here are some interesting things I learned. He is also known as the Chinese Mitten Crab (so cute!) or the Big Sluice Crab (so not cute!). He is of a burrowing species that can easily tolerate and uptake heavy metals, such as cadmium and mercury, so they tolerate well (could we say thrive in, then?) the polluted waters that China has plenty of. This is super scary, considering they are prized as food. I guess I'd better make sure of my hairy crab's origins in the future. Yuck.
But the most interesting thing I learned was that they have been brought to North American and Europe and are considered an invasive species (those little bastards, burrowing all over with their mitten claws!):
The crabs can make significant inland migrations. It was reported in the London Evening Standard in 1995 that the residents of Greenwich saw Chinese mitten crabs coming out of the River Thames and moving towards the High Street, and other reports indicate that the crabs have been known to take up residence in swimming pools. In some places the crabs have been found hundreds of miles from the sea.
It's like a horror movie, no? Or maybe they just wanted to reclaim some of their crap Chinese-made clothes (moving toward High Street? See what I mean!)
At least, it reminds me of one of my favorite villains from Futurama:
Oh, Citizen Snips, I could never eat you.