I zipped in and out of Shanghai on a business trip, but thankfully there is always time for a meal and what better time when it’s hairy crabs season! (November to early December). The hairy crabs are best during this season when it’s mating season, hence the presence of plenty of roe and for male crabs, the sperm. A cholesterol grenade by worth every calorie. They get their name from their furry pincers, which makes it look like they are wearing mittens.
My local Shanghainese food expert friends took me to a local dingy diners that still looked like it’s the 1950s – thick layer of dust on the ceiling fan, and menus on charming little wooden cards.
They ran out of hairy crabs that evening, so we bought our own from the market for them to cook.
My first taste of a home cooked traditional Shanghainese meal, included delish eel skin served with white pepper and lots of coriander – which really accelerated the dish. While it doesn’t look half as appetising as it tastes, it’s a definitely a dish to order at local Shanghainese restaurants.
Braised pork belly, again hardly looks appetising but great with a bowl of steaming white rice!
Finally, let’s get to the crabs, we had two each. As the crab and their roe are considering ‘cooling’ foods according to the yin yang of Chinese medical logic, we had to balance it with a carafe of hot yellow rice wine with shredded of ginger to balance out the excess cool that could lead to anything from menstrual cramps to poor health due to the body’s internal imbalance.
Best eaten with the special hairy crab vinegar – love those slim bottles, they remind me of medicated oil bottles my mum used to give us when we were ill.
No English menus and no one speaks English here, so bring a Chinese friend if you’re planning to have some homestyle delish Shanghainese food.
阿山饭店 Ah Shan Restaurant
2378号 Hongqiao Road Changning, Shanghai China
+86 21 6268 6583
A more tourist friendly alternative with pretty nice ambience is
375 Zhening Lu, near Yuyuan Lu
Telephone: +86 21 5239 7878