Saturday, November 12, 2016

Crabby Feast

The crab feast at Shanghai Fraternity Association has become some sort of ritual for us during the hairy crab season, courtesy of our friend A and C who asked us to join them and their other friends every year. We always made the best effort to make sure we could join, clearing up our schedule, pushing back any travel plan if needed – well, you got the idea.

The recent news and concerns over the safety of Shanghainese hairy crabs did dampen our mood for crab indulgence somewhat, but only slightly so. In face we probably had more crab dishes than usual, as C sorted out the menu for us before-hand. We began with a series of traditional appetizers while waiting for our crabs be steamed in the kitchen. The tea-smoked eggs were great as usual with the oozy yolks, but this evening I also liked the braised yellow eels dish known as “Tiger tails”. Young eels were cut into thick strips than braised in a dark and slightly sweet sauce typical of Shanghainese cuisine. It has a delicate texture and rich flavor.

The live crabs were shown to us around the table before being brought back into the kitchen to steam, and arrived piled in a mountain on a tray. We all ordered the male crabs each weighed around 6 taels, or 230 grams, which was considered pretty good size. As I have said before, they must have a special crab supplier as the one they offered always trumped those we found anywhere else. While the crabs didn’t have as many "roes" as we had in the previous years, they were still of excellent quality. (general consensus was that this year has not been the best year for hairy crabs so far)

Of course we didn’t stop at just one crab in the “crab feast” – more and more dishes arrived just as we finished working our own crab, and most of them were prepared with picked crab meat. We probably maxed out our daily cholesterol intake in one bite for the sautéed river shrimps with crab roes and meat, but it’s worth dying for. We wiped the dish clean with rice, mixing it up with all the remaining sauce. We finished that bowl of rice in no time too. We had two more crab dishes – tofu and pea shoots, and both were heavenly.

I was also impressed with the giant river eel was cut into chunks and steamed with ham, mushrooms and superior broth. The eel came in great size and the meat has a clean flavor and flaky texture. We also had a few of their other signature, non-crab dishes here, including the double-boiled chicken soup with ham and Shanghainese cabbage, sautéed snap-peas and stuffed eight-treasure duck. It’s hard to believe with so many food we managed to finish most of them at the table.

We had two types of xiaolongbao (steamed Shanghainese pork dumplings) – one with crab meat and one without – and the pan-fried pot-stickers with pork and what else, crab meat. Yup, that would be our last crab courses, before two desserts were served. I wasn’t usually the fan of Shanghainese sticky rice (known as Eight Treasure Rice) but I love the version here. The dark glutinous rice was cooked and pan-fried with a slight crispiness then mixed with sugar, nuts, candied cherries and more (hence the name "eight treasures")

We each brought our own wines to share, and ended up drinking slightly more than usual, beginning with a few champagnes, a magnum bottle of Japanese sake, a sherry (which supposedly went well with crabs) and finished with a bottle of icewine (which I thought matched perfectly well with the sticky rice dessert). All’s good.

Let us count down to next year's event… can’t wait for that!

More pictures from the dinner:

When? November 5 2016
Where? Shanghai Fraternity Association, 1-3/F, South China Building, 1 Wyndham Street, Central
Menu Highlights? Sauteed river shrimps with picked crab roes and meat
Champagne Barons de Rothchild Brut NV
Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut NV
2004 Champagne Pascal Doquet Premier Cru "Vertus" Blanc de Blancs
2006 Champagne Dom Perignon Brut
Equipo Navazos La Bota 42 de Manzanilla “Navazos”
Isojiman Honjozo, Isojiman Brewery, Shizuoka Prefecture ( 磯自慢 本釀造 - 静岡県 磯自慢酒造)
2012 Inniskillin Pearl Vidal Ice Wine

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