9 Delicious Ways to Kiss Hairy Crab Season Goodbye in Shanghai

By Cristina Ng and Bridget O'Donnell, November 30, 2018

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Hairy crab season is in full swing, and you still have until the end of the year to tear through piles of sweet crab meat and buttery, golden roe. What, you haven't had any hairy crab yet? What are you thinking? You haven't truly experienced Shanghai cuisine if you haven't partaken in this autumn food treasure. We've risked our cholesterol levels running around town trying some of the best, so read on and make some reservations. That's an order. 

READ MORE: The That's Guide to Gorging on Shanghai Hairy Crab

1. Canton Table

Photo courtesy Canton Table

Whether you are a purist that loves to savor mature hairy crab steamed simply (market price) or a total glutton that prefers to shovel bright yellow spoonfuls of braised fresh crab with soft tofu (RMB198), Canton Table is the answer. Thin, juicy soup crab soup dumplings (RMB48 per person) are also a pretty good way to go. 

All prices subject to 10 percent service charge, see listing for Canton Table

2. Fu 1015

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

Hairy crab is already luxurious, so why not kick your experience up a notch with an 11-course tasting menu in a gorgeous villa dating back to the 1920s. Settle into one of the tastefully and period appropriately furnished dining rooms for a refined Shanghainese feast you won't soon forget. 

Image by Cristina Ng/That's 

Everything is delicious, but we were blown away by the stuffed taro dumpling, seasoned to resemble Singapore chili crab and toothsome mung bean sheets with rich orange globs of prized roe. Since crab is a cooling food (according to TCM lore), a warning orange osmanthus 'su mai' with white chocolate skin is served with ginger ice cream to balance your Qi

Image by Cristina Ng/That's 

The set meal is RMB1280 per person (two person minimum) and ends around January 15th subject to crab availability. Either way, plan to go back again next year because Chef Tony Lu creates a new menu annually. 

See listing for Fu 1015

3. Fu 1088

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

Hairy crab lovers haven't lived life until they've visited Fu 1088 for the house specialty: xiefen with fluffy and crunchy sticks of brioche with black vinegar (RMB308). This delectable dish combines 85 percent pale, silken flesh with a glorious mix of golden male and orange female roe. The price might seem high, but the fact that they break down eight whole crabs makes it kind of a steal. 

See listing for Fu 1088

4. Man Long Chun

Image by Dominic Ngai/That's 

One of the best ways to enjoy hairy crab is delicately wrapped up in a dumpling. Over at Man Long Chun, they have five renditions of the quintessential Shanghainese steamed soup dumplings, but it's the crab roe variety (RMB48/128 for two/six) that's put them on the map. Sure they aren't cheap, but the explosive amount of creamy, golden goodness as if freshly scooped from the shell, almost justifies the price. 

See listing for Man Long Chun

5. Old Jesse

Image by Betty Richardson/That's 

This old-school Shanghainese eatery is an enduring favorite. While a chain found in malls throughout the city, we vastly prefer the small, unfussy interiors and better food at the original Tianping Lu location. When it comes to hairy crab, the choices are seemingly endless. We take ours drunken (huadiao gaoxie, RMB238), with tofu (xiefen doufu, RMB158) or with fried bean noodles (xiefen shaofenpi, RMB158). 

See listing for Old Jesse

6. Xia Beile

Xia Bei Le Hairy Crab
Image via Xia Beile

If you want something with a little more of a kick, then you've got to try the spicy hairy crab dry pot at Xia Beile. Choose between a two- or three-tiered dry pot (RMB138-428), which includes your choice of hairy crab, bullfrog and other seasonal seafood items. We especially love the combination of rich hairy crab flavor with bold numbing mala spice. 

Xia Bei Le Hairy Crab
Image via Xia Beile

They've also got an assortment of seafood, including more special hairy crab items like classic steamed or drunken crab (RMB39-188).

Xia Bei Le Hairy Crab
Image via Xia Beile

See listings for Xia Beile

7. Xie Huang Yu

Image by Cristina Ng/That's 

Just next to Xintiandi is a small and very clean noodle shop serving bowls of the Jiangnan specialty crab noodles (RMB68). The flesh is removed from hairy crabs and mixed with some roe and a lightly savory sauce that lets the flavor of the protein shine through. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, crab is a ‘cooling’ ingredient, so make sure to add the accompanying sliced ginger in vinegar to your bowl to ensure proper balance. Plus it makes it taste better. If you can't stomach cold food in this weather, go for the soupy crab noodle – it's the ultimate local comfort food. 

See listing for Xie Huang Yu

8. YEN, W Shanghai - The Bund

Hairy Crab
Image via W Shanghai - The Bund

Over in Hongkou, YEN at W Shanghai - The Bund offers an assortment of hairy crab items on their lunch and dinner menus. For smaller dim sum-style bites, try the steamed hairy crab meat xiaolongbao (RMB90), the steamed stuffed scallop and hairy crab meat dumplings (RMB90) or the crispy spring rolls stuffed with crab meat, onion and cheese gratin (RMB60). Sure it sounds over the top, but give it a try – it's a risk well worth taking. 

Hairy CrabHairy Crab
Images via W Shanghai - The Bund

The crème de la crème of autumn shellfish is incorporated into a variety of dinner items such as baked New Zealand fresh oysters with hairy crab meat sauce (RMB333), hairy crab meat and yellow croaker noodles (RMB98) and pan-seared Canadian scallops with red flower crab meat sauce and crisp rice paper (RMB115). If you want to try the classics, they've got those too, including a traditional steamed hairy crab served with jasmine ginger tea (RMB260-266) and chilled drunken cooked hairy crab with aged yellow wine (RMB145). They also provide tools to open the crab (if you'd rather not get down and dirty with your hands). 

See listing for YEN, W Shanghai - The Bund

9. The COOK

Image via The COOK

Over in Pudong, The COOK Origins introduces their limited-time ‘Savor the Flavor of Zhanjiang and Seasonal Hairy Crabs’ promotion, featuring Shanghai favorites such as Yangzhou-flavored stewed pork balls with hairy crab roe, fried dumplings and wontons. For a break from crab, guests can also feast on original and seasonal delicacies from Zhanjiang, including grilled oysters, roasted black goose and boiled free range chicken, to name a few.

See listing for The COOK 

[Cover image courtesy Canton Table]

Hungry for more? Take a look at our other Shanghai Dining Guides

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