I woke up feeling a bit crabby this morning. Not in a bad mood, but just slightly other worldly after a night of brilliant dreams with an abrupt jerk back to reality. As I lay in bed trying to hold on to my fleeing sleep, all I could think of was Shanghai in Autumn. You see, that's when Eriocher sinensis, popularly known as the Shanghai Hairy Crab, Chinese Mitten Crab, or Da Zha Xie, is in season.
Hairy crab is a succulent delicacy whose arrival each fall is celebrated with several months of dining pleasure. For hundreds of years there have been these feasts with poetry, drinking, and dining on the Hairy Crab. Luckily, two years ago I was in Shanghai in early fall and had my fill of the tasty little crustaceans.
I always do my gustatory research before heading out on my travels. Most of the time I end up discovering new gems to dine in, but this time I was on a mission. I had to eat at the Central Hotel famed for their Wang Bao He Crab Feast each fall. I had no reservations and of course we were told that no seats were available. I had been chatting with some folks from the US Embassy earlier that day. Thinking quickly I came up with a story about the embassy making reservations for us and asked them to check their book. This was a dining emergency and I wasn't going to get turned away no matter what I had to do. One of my traveling companions, Valerie, a very tall, pretty, blonde, marine biologist, batted her eyes at the host for a bit while we were asked to wait near the entrance. Valerie is also a competitive ballroom dancer and when she wants to be noticed, by damn she is noticed. The host kept sneaking looks at us and looking through their reservation book.