The Hairy Crab, Eriocheir sinensis (also known as the Shanghai Hairy Crab) is a medium-sized crab that is identified by its furry claws, which resemble mittens. The Hairy Crab is a well known autumn Shanghainese delicacy. Prized for its female crab roe, the Chinese spend hundreds of yuan just to taste a small crab from the Yangcheng Lake.
A few thousand miles down south, here in Singapore, the Royal Pavillion at Park Regis has specially brought these prized Hairy Crabs in to be prepared by their master chef, Ray Tso. This year, Chef Tso has come up with 5 interpretations of these seasonal Hairy Crab. He says that the roe in the female Hairy Crabs ripen in the ninth lunar month and the males in the tenth. The crab meat is believed by the Chinese to have a “cooling” (yin) effect on the body.
Chef Tso added that it will be an incomplete ritual if you have not brought along a nice bottle of Shaoxing style Huangjiu (yellow wine) – this yellow wine is a traditional pairing with Hairy Crabs. This wine augments the delicate flavours of the Hairy Crab, made in any style.
Now, we are ready to enjoy these crustaceans.
First on the menu is the Steamed Hairy Crab with Perilla Leaf (S$60++ per crab) that has been steamed-to-perfection. The luscious golden goodness of the roe and the sweetness of the crabmeat stand out, thanks to the peppery note of the perilla leaves. This Chinese herb is “warm” (yang) in nature and aids to neutralise the “cool” effects of these autumn crabs – this yin-yang dish will revive the balance of elements in your body.
Chef Tso’s next culinary creation is the Steamed Hairy Crab with Egg White & Chinese Wine (S$68++ per crab). This simple yet aromatic dish comprises steamed and de-shelled crustacean bathed in a bed of silky steamed egg white with Chinese wine, which heightens the full-bodied flavour of the pungent wine but does not obscure the taste of the egg and most importantly, the roe.
The Baked Hairy Crab with Wild Mushroom and Sake in Japanese Style (S$68++ per crab), was my personal favourite. This baked, aluminium-wrapped Hairy Crab combines the earthy sweet taste and scent from the delicious enoki mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, ginger slices and egg white, Kikkoman’s teriyaki sauce and last but not least, Mirin’s sweet sake. With the covering foil removed just before it is served, you will be able to enjoy the exquisite roe that has hints of the sweet sauce and the Mirin sweet sake.
The following dish on the menu was the Flambé Hairy Crab with Sea Salt served in Claypot (S$68++ per crab). Chef Tso came out to personally prepare the flambé for our viewing pleasure – he delicately pours light Chinese wine over the pot of sea salt and then briefly sets it on fire. Within the hot pot of sea salt rocks, the scent of Golden Flower’s rose essence wine-flambéed crab brings into equilibrium the slightly dry nature of the sea salt.
If you prefer a flambé served with a traditional Chinese twist – Royal Pavilion has for you, the Flambé Drunken Hairy Crab served with Superior Herbal Soup (S$68++ per crab). For soup lovers, Chef Tso professed that no dining experience is complete without a nutritious bowl of soup. Flambéed with Golden Flower’s rose essence wine at the table, the Great Chef’s Aged Hua Diao wine-drunken crab is then cooked in a pot of superior herbal soup made from a combination of dang gui (Chinese Angelica Root), chuan xiong (Szechuan Lovage Root), dang shen (Codonopsis Root), red dates, and bei qi (Astragalus Root). This nutritious yet lightly flavoured medicinal soup is served with the seasonal hairy crab along with its rich, buttery roes. I may be educated in Western medicine, but my gut knows that this is one nourishing pot of gold!
Lovers of traditional hairy crab dishes will appreciate Chef Tso’s interpretations of this centuries-old delicacy. Apart from the seasonal dishes, the Royal Pavilion also serves some of the best Cantonese dishes in Singapore – may I recommend Chilled Live Prawns served with Sour Plum Sauce to start the dinner with, and with the main course, you could try the Stewed Live Marble Goby with Whole Garlic in Oyster Sauce, and consummate the dinner with flamboyant desserts such as the savoury Crispy Taro Cake with Pan-Fried Glutinous Rice served with Black Bean Sauce, or the Chilled Sweetened Cream of Pumpkin Soup Served with Ice Cream.
The seasonal hairy crab promotion at the Royal Pavilion is available from 5 October to mid-November 2014. Prices start from S$60.00++ for Ala Carte items and S$98.00++ per pax for set menu. For enquiries and reservations, please call the restaurant at +65 6818 8851.