If you’ve never eaten soft-shell crab before, then I can assure you that you’re missing out on one of the world’s great foodie delights. Beautifully tasty (especially when served with some fresh chilli, scallions and soy sauce), it might seem bizarre to some that you eat this kind of crab without removing the exoskeleton.
With that in mind, let me educate you about what a soft-shell crab actually is. Who knows, you might actually be more inclined to eat it once you learn more.
Let’s be clear: soft-shell crabs are just regular crabs, but with a space issue. Normally they are regular blue crabs – but have just grown too large for their shell. In order to grow properly, they need to shed their shell to pave the way for a larger one. To keep things simple, they moult much like a snake does – shedding its skin.
In a bid to shed this smaller shell the crabs have to do some pretty complex stuff. The crabs form a soft shell underneath their current one, then swell their bodies with water to break the outer shell, then slowly crawl out. This process can only take a mere 10 minutes, which is pretty staggering for someone like me who knows nothing about crab biology.
Once they are free from their shoebox of a shell, they begin to form new larger shells – and this is when you want to snare them.
So how do you serve these little beauties? Well as I said before, the best soft-shell I’ve ever eaten was at a Vietnamese restaurant in London – but as long as it’s served in a crispy golden batter you’re onto a winner. Want to see some of my favourite soft-shell crab recipes to get you started? Flick over to the next page to see the best of the bunch.