That’s How We Roe: Everything you need to know about eating hairy crab in Hong Kong

Hairy crab season is now in full swing. From October to around the end of November every year, you’ll find these tasty morsels available at Chinese restaurants all over town. But just what is it, how do you eat it, and why are they so damn expensive?! Read on for our comprehensive guide on these hirsute li’l crustaceans:

What is hairy crab?

They are amazing, that’s what they are. Photo: Flickr

The Chinese mitten crab is popularly known as “hairy crab” thanks to its fuzzy claws. They’re normally found off the coasts of eastern China, most notably the Fujian province. The Shanghainese delicacy has become a Chinese favourite, with some people jokingly marking the beginning of autumn with the arrival of hairy crab season — you know, like pumpkin spice latte season, but better.


Are there different types of hairy crab?

The female species, which are said to taste their best around October, have a strong, intense flavour. There’s a very subtle aftertaste of sweetness. The male ones, on the other hand, tend to be of a bigger size, and are “in season” in November. 

It all comes down to personal preference. Some say roe found in female crabs are a little chewier than those found in male ones, which have a creamier texture. 

Escape judgement from society/ignore pressure from family members by eating whichever type you damn well please.


How do you tell them apart, then?

hairy crab underside

No dirty jokes about crabs please. Photo: Flickr

Flip the crab on its back. If you find a triangular segment on the body, it’s male (top), and a circular segment indicates that it’s female (bottom).


How the hell do you eat a hairy crab?

What an open hairy crab looks like. Photo: Flickr

Turn the crab to its underside and lift the aforementioned segment. Take your time searching for a small white piece (the crab’s heart) and remove it. It is believed that the heart has “yin”, or “cooling” properties, which is bad for the body in colder weather.

Open the carapace — the top shell — and remove it to reveal the rich roe beneath, then break the crab’s body in half. You can get to the flesh inside the claws with special seafood scissors (we dare you to say that three times fast) and a crab fork. Don’t forget to dispose of the gills!

Confused? Watch Coconuts’ video on how to eat crab here. Alternatively, save everyone’s time and just dine with a friend who knows how to do it (and will help you out of pity).


Where can I chow down on some hairy crab?

Fancy. Photo: Flickr

Coconuts Hong Kong’s resident foodie, Hungry Lawyer Marc Rubinstein, satisfied his hairy crab cravings at Tien Heung Lau, which specialises in authentic, if a bit pricy, Hangzhou cuisine.

In Hong Kong, restaurants offering hairy crab can charge anywhere between HKD150 to HKD800 apiece, depending on the crab’s provenance. Those imported from Yangcheng Lake are supposed to be the tastiest, so you can guess which end of the spectrum they fall on.

On a budget? Opt to cook them yourself at home. Buy them here: Shing Lung Hong Company, Sam Yeung Ho Food Company, Shanghai New Sam Yung Market.

Got too much month at the end of your money? Try these mid-range options: Wu Kong Shanghai RestaurantFoo Lum Restaurant (see locations here).

Want to go as baller as Marc? Splash out at these fancy joints: Man Wah, Lai Bun Fu, Fook Lam Moon.


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