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Grab the tail end of hairy crab season in Hong Kong with these elevated dishes

Available all autumn — and some say through to the end of December — here’s where you can get an elevated take on hairy crab around town.

For those who have a taste for decadence, autumn is undoubtedly your favourite season. After all, ‘tis the season for all kinds of shellfish at their plumpest, on top of delicacies such as the fragrant white truffle, juicy persimmons, or glimmering sanma mackerel.

Though through all this, without question, none are quite as enduring and fiercely raved about as hairy crab — loved for its sticky, golden and pearlescent roe.

For crab novices, provenance is key: Those experienced in navigating the hairy crab season claim that the best quality comes from China’s Yangcheng Lake, located just between Taihu and the Yangtze River in Suzhou province, though Taihu crabs are also popular. Yangcheng Lake crabs are known to offer a much sweeter roe and flesh and have a relatively softer shell. Due to fluctuating supply and a higher health and safety standard in recent years limiting the number of crabs exported, excellent quality hairy crabs have also been sourced from Hokkaido. 

Arguably, the best way to savour hairy crab is freshly steamed for you to crack open at your leisure, dipping the meat in vinegar served on the side. But if you’re not quite a fan of getting your hands dirty, there’s plenty of exceptional dishes available that can sate your appetites. 

Sexy Crab

As one might expect from a place called ‘Sexy Crab,’ the prized hairy crab is naturally on the menu this season. The newly opened Shanghainese eatery at K11 Musea features Jiangsu specimens handpicked for their heft (they’re all above the average benchmark of three taels, or 150g). Skilled hands deshell the notoriously fiddly shellfish for you across an array of signature dishes. The ‘Sexy Crab’ (HK$368) features the bounty of 12 crabs across several dishes: a decadent creamy chicken-crab broth to sip; and crab leg meat, golden crab oil and silky prized roe, made for you to eat alongside hand-pulled noodles or simply dip in vinegar. 

Other fabulous dishes include ‘Pillow Talk’ (HK$888), featuring a whole South African fish maw brimming with crab roe stuffing, topped with caviar on crab roe noodles; the ‘Packing Meat’ (HK$158) hairy crab roe wontons and ‘Drunk on the Rocks’ (HK$128), a seafood platter featuring crab roe marinated in Huadiao wine.

Sexy Crab, Shop 401A, 4/F, K11 Musea, Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 6655 7629

Tate Dining Room

Chef Vicky Lau’s latest single-ingredient spotlight places the lens on tea in a seven-course autumnal extravaganza that also celebrates the season’s greatest hits. The ‘Ode to Tea’ lunch tasting menu (HK$1,188 per person) delves deep into the complexities found in tea leaves when incorporated in gastronomy, while also pairing each course with an array of exquisite teas , brewed in small batches daily. Hairy crab lovers however will not want to miss the Tokyo turnip with hairy crab roe, which pairs the delicately flavoured root vegetable with an indulgent roe sauce and yellow wine foam. This course is matched with dahongpao tea, served warm with a touch of ginger to offset the ‘cooling’ properties of crab roe.

Tate Dining Room, 210 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, +852 2555 2172

FAM Art Park

Beloved for its waterfront location, art-infused surrounds and creative riffs on classic dim sum, FAM Art Park at West Kowloon offers a picturesque backdrop to your hairy crab feasting this year. It’s offering juicy Jiangsu crabs brimming with creamy roe at HK$498 each for male crabs that are at least six taels and females at five taels and above. You can choose the way you want your hairy crabs here, whether steamed the traditional way, braised with vegetables, served with you or cooked in a claypot on rice — the perfect vessel to mop up all the delicious sweetness of the roe and crabmeat. Pre-order at least one day in advance to get in on monstrous 10 tael hairy crabs at just HK$398 each — only until 15 December.

FAM Art Park, Units GF- 01-03, 22 Museum Drive, West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong, +852 2866 3667

The Legacy House

If you want to indulge in the unctuous sweetness of the hairy crab in its entirety — with the luxury of never having to lift a finger to crack a single shell — you’d best head to Legacy House, which is serving eight varieties of Taihu Lake hairy crab in its seasonal menu. Taste it freshly steamed with eight tael crabs and up on the docket, with specialty dishes such as hairy crab roe xiaolongbao (HK$120/two pieces), or with the coveted crab roe mixed with your choice of base — whether braised with Inaniwa udon (HK$240/person); with silky tofu and scallops (HK$280); slippery fenpi green bean noodles (HK$580); stuffed in fish maw with a touch of savoury shrimp paste (HK$480) or others. Tack on the indulgence by shaving Alba white truffle on top (HK$60/gram).

The Legacy House, 5/F, Rosewood Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 3891 8732

Xia Fei Society

Over at Central’s Xia Fei Society, you can take your pick from a la carte delicacies or a seven-course hairy crab extravaganza, all made using freshly shucked hairy crab. Its esteemed list of Shanghainese specialties get a seasonal remix, with dishes such as the labour-intensive sauteed river shrimp with crab roe (HK$488); stirred with fried rice cakes (HK$360); crab roe in a claypot casserole (HK$428) or simply a big ole’ bowl of sauteed pure crab roe (HK$988) for the ultimate indulgence. Guests opting for the seven-course menu (HK$738–798/person) can dig into a choice of exclusive dishes such as the Hangzhou-style fishball soup with sweet peas and crab roe or the braised superior shark’s fin with fresh crab roe, rounding out with xiaolongbao and stewed noodle brimming with golden roe.

Xia Fei Society, 13 D’Aguilar Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2522 7611

Sushiyoshi

The Hong Kong outpost of two-Michelin-starred Osakan namesake serves up a decadent all-hairy-crab menu this season, which is not to be missed by any self-respecting hairy crab aficionado. The 20-course omakase menu (HK$2,980/person) selects the best crabs from Jiangsu province, and pairs it with a medley of fresh and alluring Japanese bounty: think sweet Botan shrimps, bluefin tuna, Hokkaido sea urchin and more, with the highlight firmly on the hairy crab roe sushi — featuring freshly steamed hairy crab meat and oozing roe, lightly flavoured with traditional crab vinegar. A hairy crab miso ‘cappuccino’ bisque rounds off the meal before dessert (hairy crab roe mochi, anyone?), and comes highly recommended.

Sushiyoshi, 1/F, The Otto Hotel, 8 Cameron Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2657 0280

Yè Shanghai

If you’re down to feast on all kinds of freshwater crabs in season as well as hairy crab, you’ll want to dig into the menu at Yè Shanghai. Of a number of inventive spinoffs from classic Shanghainese recipes, you’ll want to try the braised baby hairy crab and rice cake with black pepper (HK$260) that adds a slight kick to the typically rich dish. You can also have hairy crab served with Nepal rice and vinegar (HK$280) — matching sticky rice with the sweet crab roe, wakened up with a pop of acidity. Instead of the typical braised noodles, chef Sze serves hairy crab meat with steamed vegetable rice and fermented pork (HK$320) for that extra Shanghainese touch. A freshwater crab set menu with 13 whopping courses is also available at HK$880 per person.

Various locations including: Yè Shanghai, K11 Musea, Shop 702, 7/F, K11 Musea, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2376 3322

Man Wah

While Man Wah is still a ways away from unveiling its newly renovated space at Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, guests eager for a taste of chef Wong Wing-keung’s refined Cantonese fare can enjoy one of two new tasting menus spotlighting the hairy crab. A five-course lunch menu (HK$688/person) features the decadent hairy crab roe on braised rice, whilst the extravagant set dinner menu features the exclusive stir-fried spotted grouper fillet served on a bed of hairy crab roe — sure to play up the chef’s expertise at preserving the perfect texture and taste of both prized seafoods. Available through 23 December, these specialties will be available in the Small Connaught Room on the hotel’s first floor.

Man Wah (temporary), Small Connaught Room, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong, +852 2825 4000 or email mohkg-restaurants@mohg.com.

Evelyn Lok
Managing Editor
When not trying out the latest beauty and wellness trends, Evelyn is likely enjoying a perfectly balanced negroni or exploring some of Hong Kong's best new places to eat and drink. At Lifestyle Asia she covers everything from the biggest events in town to interviews with Hong Kong specialists, with topics spanning art, food and drink, health, tech, and travel.