Let's get crabby!

By Liu Zhihua (China Daily)

Updated: 2015-10-09

All kinds of clawed crustaceans are finding their way to dinner plates now, Liu Zhihua reports.

In autumn, freshwater crabs are loaded with roe, sending gourmets in an eager quest for the late-year delicacies.

While restaurants all over China are highlighting da - zhaxie, or Chinese hairy crab, on their seasonal menus, Xie Lao Song is taking a broader approach with its 16th annual crab festival in Beijing, which is ongoing through Nov 22.

The restaurant chain, famous for specializing in cooking crabs, was first established in Wuhan, Hubei province, in 1998. It opened a branch in Beijing the next year. This year, three of its branches in the capital are taking part in the celebration that offers Beijing diners a large variety of crustacean delicacies, including dazhaxie and sea crabs.

One thing that makes Xie Lao Song crabs distinctive: the "fragrant and spicy sauce", which is made with a myriad Chinese herbs and flavorings. The recipe is a secret, a family legacy developed by one restaurant owner's great-grandfather. Widely used in many of the restaurant chain's signature dishes, the sauce imparts a distinct flavor, spicy mingled with a slight sweetness.

Let's get crabby!

While Chinese people like the roe in freshwater crabs, they also have a large appetite for sea-crab meat - and the high demand even influences the price of sea crabs overseas, according to Zhu Shichun, co-owner of the restaurant chain.

Years ago, when Zhu imported sea crabs from South Asian countries, he could simply hire fishing boats directly to catch the crabs. Nowadays, he needs to buy the crustaceans wholesale at prices ranging from 50 yuan ($7.80) to hundreds of yuan per kilogram.

As one of the earliest restaurants to introduce sea crabs to the Chinese, the restaurant chain offers diners delicious sea crabs all year long.

For this year's festival, the restaurant chain will import more than 20 kinds of sea crabs from all over the world, including Alaska king crabs from the United States, Burmese mud crabs from Myanmar, Russian snow crabs, and Dungeness crabs from the Pacific Ocean.

Apart from the signature "fragrant and spicy" crabs, the restaurant chain also offers garlic-flavored, oil-stewed and steamed crabs.

It also offers diners meaty Chinese hairy crabs, which are raised at its own breeding base in Yangcheng Lake, Jiangsu province, and authentic Hubei-style delicacies, including wild Honghu duck, sauced duck wing, Wuhan hot dry noodles and Wuchang chicken feet.

There are lucky draws every day in the three branches.

Contact the writer at liuzhihua@chinadaily.com.cn

 Let's get crabby!

Chefs at a branch of Xie Lao Song, a restaurant chain specializing in cooking crabs, steamfresh crabs at the opening ceremony of its 16th annual crab festival. Provided To China Daily

 Let's get crabby!

Xie Lao Song's signature dishes include the socalled xianglaxie, or 'fragrant and spicy crab'. Liu Zhihua / China Daily

(China Daily 10/09/2015 page19)

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