Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 20: Steamed Shelled Crab (剝殼蒸蟹)

Shell an entire crab, take its meat and roe, and stuff it inside the carapace shell. Place five or six stuffed crabs on top of raw (chicken) egg and steam. When served at the table, the crab looks whole, less its claws and legs. This feels like a more novel take on stir-fried crab meat.

Officer Yang Lanpo mixes pumpkin1 with crab, which is rather unusual.


1This will give the crab meat an appealing bright orange colour and a somewhat sweeter flavour.


Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 19: Stir-fried Crab Meat6 (炒蟹粉)

It best to stir-fry crab meat that has just been shelled.1 Four hours after shelling, the crab meat would have dried-up and lost its flavour.


1This dish is likely what Yuan Mei’s imitation crab recipe was trying to imitate (See River Delicacies 6: Imitation Crab)

2Xiefan (蟹粉), literally translates as “crab powder” and refers to the meat, roe and other soft edible bits that have been shelled and picked out from the crab, hence the translation as crab meat. However, something is still lost here, since rather than just the loose whitish crab meat that one can buy in coastal supermarkets in the North America, Chinese crab meat is a thick, fragrant bright orange yellow mass due to the rather high amounts of crab roe/tomalley mixed along with the meat.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 18: Crab Geng (蟹羹)

Shell a crab and and make a geng1 from the meat, using its juices for braising. Do not add and chicken extracts since it is best to cook it on its own. I’ve seen vulgar cook adding duck tongue, sharks fin, or sea cucumber, which not only robs the crab of its flavours but add an irritating fishiness to the dish. A complete abomination!


1: A geng 羹 is a class of rich Chinese soups thickened with starch.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 17: Crab (蟹)

Crab should be eaten on their own without accompaniment of anything. They are best boiled in a lightly salted brine and most enjoyable when shelled by eater themselves. Although crab cooked by steaming is fuller in flavour, it tastes bland and is less enjoyable.


Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 16: Stir-fried Shrimp (炒蝦)

Stir-fried shrimp is done in the same manner as stir-fried fish and can be cooked with garlic chives. It can also be cooked with mustard greens picked during the winter if one cannot eat garlic chives.1 There is also a recipe where the body of the shrimp is pounded flat2 and stir-fried on its own that was quite novel and interesting.


1 Chinese not eating garlic chives does so usually due to Chinese Buddhist dietary restrictions.
2 Chuibianqiwei (捶扁其尾) means “tail pounded flat”. But anatomically, it is not the tail of the shrimp that is the subject of flattening but the meaty abdomen instead. It’s unfortunate that across various cultures this part has also been named “the tail”, though understandably if one sees the cephalothorax with its head and guts as “the body”, the abdomen would logically be the tail.

PS: Real life has been crazy. Many apologies for the lack of recent posts!

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 15: Drunken Shrimp (醉蝦)

Pan-fry whole shrimp with shells over high heat in wine until yellow then remove them from the pan.1 Next, braise them in light soy sauce and rice vinegar. When done, cover the shrimp with the bowl to cook with its residual heat. When ready to serve, place them in a dish. Their shells should be tender enough eat.2


1This is a a very different drunken shrimp compared to the modern version, which is basically shrimp marinated in wine.
2The shell has been made tender likely because the shrimp were braised in vinegar. While interesting, with all the braising, I wonder if the shrimp hasn’t also turned mushy and disgusting.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 14: Shrimp Cakes (蝦餅)

Pound the shrimp into a paste, form into balls and pan-fry. These are known as shrimp cakes.


A simple dish ingredient-wise, but complex in technique. Again much of the details crucial for this dish were not mentioned by Yuan Mei, most likely because he didn’t actually know them since he didn’t make the dish himself.

The shelled shrimp needs to be pounded well but not too finely. The paste must then be seasoned with salt and some starch, then the stirred until the salt has to tease out the albumin in the shrimp and the pounded mass really sticks together. Only then does one roll the paste into balls and fry them. For this dish I like to add chopped water-chestnut bits and green onions, seasoned additionally with white pepper and rice wine.