It is the time of the year again when hairy crabs are in season and its presence in Chinese restaurants becomes more prominent, as reflected in the many specialty dishes. Over at Shanghai Restaurant in JW Marriott Hotel Kuala Lumpur, hairy crabs are abundant. Pair that with Shanghainese native Executive Chinese Chef Wong Wing Yeuk’s 20-year experience at the restaurant, expect nothing but flair and finesse interwoven with strong Shanghainese influences.
The freshwater hairy crabs — named after its furry claws — are at its most succulent and delicious during Autumn. The ones served here come from Chang Jiang river in Shanghai where the eggs are first laid. Once the crabs are able to walk, they’ll then migrate to Lake Thai where the quality and temperature of the water create the perfect environment to grow and thrive. The lakebed gives these hairy crabs its white shiny bellies, and they are particularly noted for the golden hair, sharp pointy claws and creamy smooth roe.
If you’re at the restaurant this month, you’ll be able to see live hairy crabs in hibernation. It retains the freshness of these crabs, whether mixed into a thick broth or used as filling of dumplings.
Celebrating Shanghainese Hairy Crabs
There are several set menus here to choose from but be sure to try the Shanghainese Hairy Crab set that’s available for a limited time only. Start with the Shanghainese hairy crab combination that comprises a trio of hot and cold items typical to most Chinese banquet-style cuisine.
Deep-fried bean curd skin wrapped with hairy crab roe and crabmeat is succulent and crispy at the same time – beautifully paired with pickled cabbage and julienned carrots. The bean curd topped with scallop and hairy crab roe is beautifully aromatic, accented with the umami flavours of the decadent roe. Finally, the last item is baked seafood with cheese, served in a crab shell — creamy but not overpowering the palate.
Next on the menu is the soup, a hearty and crowd-pleasing addition to the menu. The thick soup is fragrant with touches of coriander and baby lotus leaves, enriched with crab meat and umami roe. The menu continues with panfried cod that’s delightfully crispy on the exterior and succulent on the inside. The touch of brandy adds a nice complexity to the complementing sauce, giving the dish a beautiful coat of decadent finish.
Take your time and enjoy the braised noodles next. Every spoonful is a celebration of crab meat, roe and scallops. It’s intensely-flavoured with delicious umami notes thanks to its broth. The noodles are slightly firm, giving a nice mouthfeel and texture to the dish.
The transitional dish before the dessert is the steamed Shanghai meat dumpling, also known as xiao long bao. Bountifully filled with pork, crabmeat and roe, the filling is simple yet delicious. The broth inside is flavourful with sweetness of meat and saltiness from the crustacean. A touch of vinegar and sliced ginger makes it the perfect finish to the savoury dishes.
Finish off with a hot bowl of ginger soup filled with glutinous rice balls, fondly known as tang yuan. The warming sensation of ginger balances the rich flavours of crab and the other satiating dishes.
We thoroughly enjoyed the simple yet satisfying menu that’s laced with complex nuances of hairy crabs, umami notes of its roe, and unpretentious Chinese cooking. It’s a wholesome offering, that not only celebrates the seasonal ingredient but also two decades of legacy acquired by Chef Wong’s sheer passion on dishes from his homeland.