Dragon-i: Yangcheng Lake Hairy Crabs Return

October 15, 2019

Autumn ushers in the return of hairy crabs to Dragon-i, Malaysia's sole certified importer of China's finest crustaceans from Yangcheng Lake. For fans of this seasonal delicacy, hailed as the 'king of crabs,' Yangcheng is renowned as China's most respected source, a sprawling freshwater territory where copious sunlight and natural breeding waters combine to produce the sweetest and most succulent of these coveted crabs.

For the ideal introduction to Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs, Dragon-i currently offers a sumptuous six-course Shanghainese meal that focuses on these crabs, as well as a hairy crab a la carte selection, at all Dragon-i La Mian Xiao Long Bao and Dragon-i Peking Duck restaurants, with crabs flown into Malaysia twice weekly, every Tuesday and Thursday, until the season concludes in late November or early December.

Dragon-i commands impressive experience with superior hairy crabs, also known as mitten crabs, importing them from Yangcheng Lake since 2008; it remains Malaysia's only certified hairy crab importer recognised by the Suzhou Yangcheng Lake's Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Department. Dragon-i's hairy crabs are further endorsed by Hong Kong quality control authorities before being sent to Malaysia.

This assurance of authenticity can be seen on each roe-rich crab before it's cooked, with a dedicated security ring and the crab's own individual identification number. The crabs are also visually distinctive, green-backed with white bellies, yellow hair and golden claws.

Dragon-i's hairy crab set meal this year launches with a trio of starters - the centrepiece is a steamed Shanghainese meat dumpling with hairy crab roe, beautifully balancing the meatiness of pork with the sweetness of hairy crab roe, a once-a-year deluxe twist on xiao long bao. This is complemented by two other appetite-whetters that characterise the elegance of Shanghai's classic cuisine - smoked fish, punchily marinated with unmistakable notes of five-spice, plus braised gluten with black fungus that bears out earthiness to bolster its full-bodied textures.

True to tradition, the second course brings soul-warming broth - minced fish soup, again in sterling Shanghai style, sharpened with ginger to cleanse and perk up the palate for the highlights ahead.

The main event comes soon enough: Each customer receives one hairy crab, weighing approximately 180 grams, steamed whole in lotus leaves to preserve its purity of flavour and luscious texture, served simply with vinegar and ginger. The art of preparing the crabs for consumption is on full display at the table, with the shell, legs and claws methodically detached, ensuring you'll enjoy every precious morsel of the flesh and especially the savoury, bright-orange roe, bursting with buttery creaminess, sultry and sensuous like no other.

If you miss out this year, you'll have to wait till October 2020 for the next hairy crab opportunities. The crabs are also available a la carte at a 180-gram medium size or a 210-gram large size.

The next two courses also showcase hairy crabs in inventive fashion - Dragon-i's latest introduction this year is the steamed hairy crab with egg white and Hua Diao rice wine, an aromatic concoction that's silky and soothing, followed by the braised hairy crab roe and bean curd with rice, comfort fare punctuated by the potent intensity of the roe, perhaps the closest Chinese equivalent of French foie gras and Japanese uni. Black sesame glutinous rice balls supply a soulful, satisfying conclusion.

The recipes in this hairy crab extravaganza have been crafted by Dragon-i's Jiangzhou-born Group Executive Chef Man Fong Lam, a master chef with more than two decades of experience that span both mainland China and venerable Hong Kong establishments. Other dishes available a la carte include poached vegetables with hairy crab roe, stir-fried vermicelli with hairy crab roe, and fried rice with hairy crab meat and roe - sufficient to keep customers returning for a second or third round of this delightfully decadent dose of hairy crabs before November ends.

Many thanks to Dragon-i for having us here.

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