Hairy crab — the prized delicacy that is only available from October to November each year. You’ll recognise it from its distinctive dark green shell (before it’s popped into the steamer, of course), and its fuzzy brown claws that earned the hairy crab its name. Loved for its natural sweetness and buttery roe, knowing how to cook hairy crab properly is key in enhancing the deliciousness of this dish. Here, we speak to Head Chef Ng Sen Tio of acclaimed Cantonese restaurant YAN in National Gallery Singapore for expert tips on how to cook hairy crabs.
How to cook hairy crab at home
Never handled live crabs before? Fret not! The trick is to keep the string ties on — so the crabs don’t scuttle off! — and clean the crabs one at a time. When ordering live hairy crabs, it’s best to cook them on the day itself instead of storing them in the freezer.
How to clean hairy crabs
Step 1: Prepare a basin of cold water and fill it with ice cubes. The icy water is essential to keeping the live crabs, well, alive.
Step 2: Place one crab (yes, still with the string ties on) into the icy bath. Use a stiff brush to scrub the crab gently, making sure to clean all sides.
Step 3: Rinse off the crab in cold water and flip it belly side up on the steaming dish
Step 4: Repeat steps one to three with the remaining crabs
How to cook hairy crabs: steamed hairy crab recipe
While there are many answers as to how to cook and enjoy hairy crab at home, be it with fried rice or stir-fried, one of the easiest (and most delicious) ways to savour the natural sweetness of the fleshy meat is by simply steaming it.
According to chef Ng of YAN restaurant, “The flesh of hairy crab is naturally sweet and does not require condiments during the steaming process, unlike mud and flower crabs that are usually cooked with ginger, garlic or light sauce.” He shares a simple method on how to cook steamed hairy crab.
- 5 Hairy crabs (live), weighing up to 250g each
- 5 Dried perilla leaves (one for each crab)
- Black vinegar
- 1 small block brown sugar (one small block)
- Minced ginger
- Place a dried perilla leaf (available on nanhuamedicalhall) on the belly side of each crab. This will add fragrance to the steaming process.
- As for how long to steam live hairy crabs (available on Mamago Sg), steam them at high heat for 25 minutes. Leave to cool.
How to cook hairy crabs: dipping sauce recipe
The hairy crab recipe is not complete without its dipping sauce that enhances its flavour. Here’s chef Ng’s guide on how to prepare a crab-solutely good one.
- Black vinegar
- 1 small block brown sugar
- Minced ginger
- To prepare the dipping sauce, let the black vinegar (available on Shopee Supermarket) simmer at a low heat for a few minutes
- Add the block of brown sugar (available on Shopee Supermarket) bit by bit, to your taste.
- Stir the mixture continuously until all the brown sugar is dissolved. Leave to cool.
- Serve the steamed hairy crabs with the dipping sauce. Add the minced ginger to the dipping sauce just before you dig in. The dish can be served hot or cold.
How to peel hairy crab without making a mess
Now that you know how long to steam and cook hairy crabs at home with this recipe, it’s time for the tricky part — knowing how to peel it, without making a mess! Chef Ng shares some handy tips on how to peel the notoriously challenging hairy crabs, so you can indulge this season in 2022 while keeping your fingers mostly clean at the same time.
Step 1: Remove the triangular/oval apron of the crab located on the underbelly and discard it. Remove the top carapace and set aside.
Step 2: Use a spoon to remove the non-edible crab gills within the body, which are the grey spongy strips on the sides, and discard.
Step 3: Break off the pincers and remove the legs by cutting them off with scissors. Set these aside. Holding the body with both hands, break it into two halves to reveal the meat and creamy roe.
Step 4: For the pincer claws, cut along the sides of the biggest segment to reveal the flesh within
Step 5: The legs are divided into three sections. Cut off the sections at each joint. Cut off and discard the middle sections. Use the smaller sections to insert into the larger joint to push the leg meat out. You can also use a chopstick to coax the meat out.
Learn how to cook and savour hairy crab this season in 2022
Sometimes, keeping it simple really is best. Enjoy the hairy crab season this 2022 with our easy tips and recipe on how to cook hairy crab at home! If you’re searching for live hairy crab vendors in Singapore, check out our guide on where to buy hairy crabs! Alternatively, check out our top picks on where to get seafood delivery in Singapore. For more easy recipes, read our list of quick air fryer recipes that you can whip up in a jiffy!
This article was updated on 3 October 2022. Additional research done by Liang Shi Nan.