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Shanghai Hairy Crab (上海毛蟹)

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Shanghai Hairy Crab09.jpg

"Chinese mitten crab", Eriocheir sinensis (also known as the big sluice crab (Chinese: 大閘蟹; pinyin: dà zhá xiè) and Shanghai hairy crab, Chinese: 上海毛蟹; pinyin: shànghǎi máo xiè) is a medium-sized burrowing crab, named for its furry claws that look like mittens, that is native in the coastal estuaries of eastern Asia from Korea in the north to the Fujian province of China in the south. It has also been introduced to Europe and North America where it is considered an invasive species.

The crab is a famous delicacy in Shanghai cuisine and is prized for the female crab roe. The crab meat is believed by the Chinese to have a "cooling" (yin) effect on the body. Concerns have been raised that the population and origin of the crab may be affected because of overfishing of the species in the Yangtze River.

Chinese spend hundreds of yuan just to taste a small crab from Yangcheng Lake which are considered a delicacy. The crabs cost 680-700 yuan, or roughly USD$105, or more per kilogram. Most of the Yangcheng crabs are exported to Shanghai and Hong Kong, and high-profit foreign markets. Responding to the spread of the crab to the West, businessmen have started seeing it as a new source of crab for the Chinese market. One proposed scheme involves importing unwanted crabs from Europe, where they are seen as a pest, to replenish local pure-bred stock.

Mitten crabs have exhibited a remarkable ability to survive in highly modified aquatic habitats, including polluted waters. Like certain fish, they can also easily tolerate and uptake heavy metals, such as cadmium and mercury. Therefore, the farming and post-harvesting of the species needs proper management if it is used as a food.

Recently, China introduced vending machines to sell this species of crab in the subways. The crabs are stored at 5 degrees Celsius, which induces a sleepy state of hibernation. The prices of the crabs range from around $1.50 to $7.00 (USD). They are guaranteed to be fresh and alive.

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References

Chinese mitten crab, en.wikipedia.org

Sampling Hairy Crab at Wang Bao He in Shanghai, travel.nytimes.com

The Hairy Crab, shanghai.cultural-china.com