If a list of messy foods is ever made crabs would rank rather high. All that cracking and snapping followed by some strategic sucking creates some seriously sticky fingers. Then there’s the mess of shells resembling some sort of crab Armageddon on the table after the meal.
But chowing down on crabs can be fun. And few would go through all that trouble of eating the crustaceans if they didn’t taste so darn good with tender flesh and a hint of sweetness.
Several new crab houses have opened in Shanghai presenting various cooking styles from China, the United States and South Korea.
The US crab restaurants offer seafood boils, which are common in coastal areas. In some places like Louisiana, seafood boils are more popular at Christmas than a roast turkey or ham.
Shrimp, crab and crawfish boils are usually prepared in a large pot. Throw in seasoning packets, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, salt, lemons and bay leaves along with potatoes and corn on the cob. Dip in a cocktail sauce before eating.
There are several crab houses serving seafood boils in Shanghai. These no-tableware restaurants serve the seafood in buckets. Diners are provided thin plastic gloves and aprons to reduce the mess. So what are you waiting for? Get cracking.
This American seafood restaurant opened last year and is gaining fame for its signature dish — the Dungeness crab. The species is usually found on the west coast of North America and makes for good eating as a quarter of its weight is meat.
Dungeness crabs are large with wide and hard shells. Wait staff will help crack the claws.
United Shells offers a range of spicy sauces from mild spicy, ragin’ Cajun, hot and sour and a house special spicy flavor. Oysters are also popular and come in a variety of ways like baked with cheese or with a tomato bacon sauce.
Average price per person: 160 yuan (US$26)
Address: 4th floor, ASE Center Plaza, 618 Xujiahui Rd
This upscale South Korean restaurant serves a delicacy known as gejang, or raw crabs marinated in soy sauce.
Having opened earlier this month, Pro Soy has ingredients flown in from South Korea.
The restaurant uses only female blue crabs, also known as swimming crabs, that are best enjoyed with a bowl of rice. When marinated in soy sauce raw crab meat has a unique glutinous texture although it may be too salty or fishy for those not used to the strong flavor.
The soy crab is similar to zuixie (drunken crab 醉蟹, or raw crab marinated in liquor) that’s common in Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. A common way to enjoy Pro Soy’s crabs is mixing some rice and seaweed in the sauce in the crab shell.
There’s also steamed crabs for those who don’t like raw seafood.
Other recommended dishes include steamed octopus and fried beltfish. The fish cuts are bigger than average, and marinated well before being cooked in hot oil. The meat is fresh and firm with wonderfully rich flavors.
The chain restaurant also has branches in Beijing, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
This crab house is similar to Boiling Seafood and serves king crab legs and lobsters in buckets.
The menu also includes oysters, salt roasted crab legs, appetizers like French fries and hot chicken wings, as well as three dessert dishes.
The portions are quite large. One bucket combo includes two king crab legs, four snow crab legs, mussels, squid, prawns, corn and potatoes — plenty for two to share.
Sauces include ragin’ Cajun, lemon pepper, as well as a hot and spicy Chengdu sauce. House of Crab boasts a casual and fun atmosphere. The decor is related to the sea with a giant shark model hanging from the ceiling and fish paintings on the wall.
Average price per person: 170 yuan (US$27.4)
Address: Zone 1, 105-06, the River Mall, 1368 Expo Avenue
This casual restaurant presents authentic Louisiana seafood boils.
The selection includes prawns, clams, mussels, shrimps, snow crab legs, lobsters, Alaska king crab legs and more.
All seafood orders come with sides of corn, potatoes and quail eggs. Sausage can be added for an extra 12 yuan (US$1.92). Sauces include garlic butter, crispy fried flavor, sweet and spicy, curry and basil.
The garlic butter and curry sauces are recommended as they have a rich taste that doesn’t overpower the crab legs and shrimps. The sweet and spicy sauce is average.
The seafood is fresh and pretty good quality.
Other good menu items include the seafood salad (38 yuan), which is refreshing and light with half a mango, shrimps, mussels and a special mild dressing over lettuce.