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Hairy crab season is back with bigger and better menus

Autumn brings its usual bevy of culinary delights to Singapore – we might’ve just finished up with mooncake season, but there’s still calorific, indulgent delicacies on the horizon. Chinese mitten crabs, more commonly known as hairy crabs, are now in season.

The crustaceans used to take up residence in Jiangnan, China, though a combination of overfishing and habitat destruction brought the species dangerously close to destruction. Thankfully, suppliers found a new home for the crabs in the Yang Chenghu lake region, Suzhou, as well as a few other crab hotspots.

Unlike your usual Sri Lankan mud crabs that stock most of our seafood restaurants, hairy crabs don’t really have much meat on them. What they’re prized for is their rich and creamy roe. And yes, the males as well- they’ve got a whitish, lava-like ‘roe’ that’s equally (if not more) feted for its creamy consistency. The crabs are technically available all-year round, but they only get spawning in autumn, from around October to November, annually. 

As with all delicacies centred around animals in heat, it’s a carefully controlled process – which is what makes the crustaceans so highly prized. That said, they’ve been the star of autumn menus ever since Capitol Restaurant introduced the crabs back in the late 80s – and with some of the requisite pairings of warm ginger tea or yellow wine, hard to beat. Here’s where to indulge in hairy crabs in Singapore.

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Shang Palace

shang palace hairy crab singapore

With 49 years at the forefront of Singapore’s Chinese culinary scene, diners at Shang Palace can look forward to palatial delights courtesy of award-winning executive Chinese chef Mok Kit Keung, whose use of the seasonal delicacy extends to a grand total of 15 different a la carte dishes. Alternatively, sample it as part of a delicious six-course menu – highlights include braised bean curd fortified with hairy crab meat, along with accompaniments of a crisp spring onion and tomato-jelly-topped foie gras pate; claypot steamed rice topped with cod and a hearty hairy crab roe-infused gravy; and the star of the show, steamed hairy crabs, with all the trimmings. Standout non-crab related dishes include customary autumnal fare like braised softshell turtle and preserved salted duck or braised fish maw with Chinese yellow wine.

Available until November 30.

22 Orange Grove Road, Shangri-La Hotel Singapore. Tel: 6212-4473.

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Yan Ting

Yan Ting hairy crab singapore

Expect fine, seasonal crustaceans executed beautifully at unfaltering Cantonese restaurant Yan Ting, which is no stranger to bringing some satisfying and exquisite grub in equal measure from its spot in The St Regis Singapore. Like others on this list, they’ve also prepared the hairy crabs in a myriad of ways on the a la carte menu, as well as a special six-course set. For the former, look forward to the alluring combination of hairy crab meat and Shanghai-style steamed pork dumplings, among other noteworthy iterations of the seasonal crab. As for the latter, they’ve chosen here to showcase hairy crab braised with mung bean sheets as well as sea cucumber for a duo of nourishing, warming stews to comfort the soul.

Available until November 30. 

Level 1U, 29 Tanglin Road, The St. Regis Singapore. Tel: 6506-6887.

Yan

Boil ‘em, mash ‘em or stick ‘em in a stew (well not exactly) – Yan is an elegant Cantonese establishment after all, and at the very least, you’d expect your ingredients to get the respect they deserve. A la carte options featuring hairy crabs include a ribsticking pumpkin broth that’s packed with the sweetness of pumpkin, chicken and pork, poached noodles drenched in hairy crab sauce and stewed bamboo pith with luffa. Else, there’s always their six-course menu with highlights including Cantonese-styled favourites like wok-fried crayfish and ee fu noodles, as well as classic steamed hairy crab.

Available until November 30.

#05-02, 1 St Andrew’s Road, National Gallery. Tel: 6384-5585

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