River Delicacies 6: Imitation Crab (假蟹)


Crab roe is magic. Good xiaolong bao are nice but add some crab roe to its filling and what you get is something truly sublime. I’m not sure this recipe can act as a substitute for the real deal but I guess it can certainly work with a healthy dose of imagination. (Credit:王波波)

List of River Delicacies::Imitation Crab[1]
Boil two Yellow croakers and removed their bones. Add to the fish four raw salted eggs. Break the eggs up without mixing them into the fish[2], and fry everything quickly with oil. To the mixture add chicken broth, let boil, and then stir in the salted egg until the mixture is even. Finish the dish with shitake, green onions, ginger juice, and wine. Serve with liberal amounts of vinegar.[3]

Random notes:
[1]: For a bunch of bottom dwelling, muck nibbling bugs, crabs are elegant in texture and absolutely delectable in taste. By the hefty price of crab nowadays, it is safe to conclude that most people agree that these are indeed very tasty creatures. Although big meaty crabs are popular throughout the world, in China it is the mitten crab (Eriocheir Sinensis, 大閘蟹) that reign supreme. Not only is the meat of the mitten crab is sweet and delicate, when in season its carapace are practically filled-to-bursting with copious amounts of creamy golden orange roe (蟹糕 and 蟹黄). Demand for these crabs are high and the prices can be rather steep, with the tiny fist-sized crabs selling for $20-30 CAD each. I’ve heard of families that would forgo saving money during mitten crab season (a big deal for Chinese families) in order to eat them everyday. For those who want the roe-filled crab but cannot buy them due to the season or their finances, finding a substitute would be paramount to their gustatory needs. This fish-derived crab substitutes probably imitates the appearance (gooey yellow and white of the salted egg), some of the textures (flakiness of the fish), and to a much lesser extent the flavours (slight fishiness of salted egg) of a shelled and stir-fried mitten crab. I would also hazard a guess that this is one of Yuan Mei’s own house recipes and he eats this when craving crab roe but there are no roe-ed crabs around.

[2]: Not mixing the salted eggs in with the fish at this stage gives this dish an uneven white and yellow appearance of stir-fried mitten crab.

[3]: Some people eat crab with vinegar to cut the crab’s fishiness. However in this case, vinegar is required to hide the fact that this “crab” lacks the requisite fishiness.


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