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 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.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 13: Shrimp Balls (蝦圓)

Shrimp ball are made in the same way as fish balls. They can be either braised in chicken broth or stir-fried dry. When pounding the shrimp to a paste, be sure to not pound it too fine otherwise its original flavours and textures would be lost. This is the same with fish balls.1 The shrimp can also be peeled in whole then mixed with laver, which is excellent.2


1 This is somewhat surprising since modern fishballs tends to be rather homogenous and fine in texture.
2 It’s not clear exactly how this is prepared. However, whole shrimp that has been semi-butterflied and fried until it just curls into a round form is also know as “shrimp balls” (蝦球), so it’s likely junh that. Mixing in chopped laver with shrimp prepared thus, either before or after frying, will undoubtedly result in excellent dishes.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 12: Rice-Eel Segments (段鱔)

Cut the rice-eel into inch long pieces and braise them in the same manner as eel. It can also be first fried in oil to firm up its flesh, then cooked together1 with winter melon, fresh bamboo shoots, and shitake. Use only a small amount of diluted soy sauce, and larger amounts of ginger extract.


1The words used here are actually zuopei (作配) or “match up”, which does not actually tell one how to prepare the dish. Hence the use here of the equally ambiguous term “cooked together”.