Afterthoughts – Hairy Crabs at Superstar Restaurant
I realize that hairy crab season has passed (“it was soooooo last month”) but I want to post this review regardless since it left quite an impression on us, and not a particularly good one.
Last month, at the end of the hairy crab season, a couple of girlfriends and I decided to indulge one last time on these little high-cholestrol delicacies before having to wait for next year’s harvest.
Wise or unwise? Being lazy, we opted to eat them at a restaurant instead of steaming them ourselves. I’ve gone to Superstar Restaurant (yes, the name says it all!) over the past few years to have their hairy crab combo, and it has always been quite good. The combo is around HKD$380 / person, and comes with a menage a trios of crabs (2 male, 1 female, oh la la!) plus a few side dishes. An excellent deal for the amount of crab, although they are on the small side.
Our first dish arrived in the form of a seafood soup filled with scallops and shrimp – it was good but predictable, but we were so hungry we all wolfed it down.
Next, came a couple of small stir-frys. To be truthful, I didn’t really eat much of these as they were a bit cold and not very appealing. I forgot to take a picture of the Shanghainese steamed bun, filled with pork and bits of crab meat and roe. It was pretty good although on the oily side.
Now we come to what we’ve all been waiting for! The crabs! The first crabs to arrive were the male ones, and a quick survey around the table confirms that we all prefer the male crabs more because of the eggy creamy consistency of the golden roe. The female crab roe tends to be harder and more chewy. Female crabs usually mature earlier in the season compared to male crabs, and normally peak in October. Male crabs are smaller and peak around November.
You can distinguish between male and female crabs by the shape of their belly plates. Male crabs have narrower plates compared to female ones.
A male hairy crab (below).
A female hairy crab (below).
The money shot! The gooey, creamy golden roe. Yummmmmm……………bad for your cholesterol levels, but so good for your taste buds.
It’s a very time consuming task to eat these little crabs, as you have to painstakingly scrap out the roe and meat from tiny crevasses. My favourite hairy crab indulgence is the opaque sticky bit of roe, usually found in the middle of the golden egg yolk-like roe.
It really helps to have great company when patiently eating these little crabs, as a bit of gossip and jokes always helps make the task more fun. The combo package also comes with a tiny shot glass of huadiao wine, which is a traditional Chinese liquor to drink when eating crabs. Crabs are considered “yin” or cold in Chinese medicine, so the liquor helps warm you up.
What made this meal not so enjoyable was that, out of the 9 crabs we had, 2 had actually gone bad. The smell was quite off-putting, although the server was friendly and offered to exchange them. I’ve never encountered this at Superstar restaurant on previous hairy crab escapades, and the experience made me question whether their quality control standards have declined. It’s also quite dangerous to eat spoiled crabs as they pack a lot of toxins. Perhaps it was at the end of the season, but I really hope Superstar can improve on this next year!
Our final 2 dishes: stir-fry scallops with jade melon, and sticky rice steamed with preserved meats and sausages. Both were ok, but nothing to write home about. I really only pick the combo for the crabs.
To cap off the dinner, we were served bowls of sweet red bean soup, although I was too busy chatting and forgot to take a photo of it.
Verdict: The combo offered at Superstar Restaurant is a good starting point for the hairy crab novice, who would like to try these yummy little creatures without the trouble of having to cook them at home. As mentioned above, the quality is varied, although this previous time is the only instance of spoiled crabs that I’ve encountered here. The rest of the dishes are very mediocre, and mostly just fillers. I’ve been to this restaurant on other occasions for dim sum, and find the food ok but not exceptional. This wouldn’t be on my list of must-try restaurants.
And next year, I will definitely try holding a hairy crab feast at home!
鴻星海鮮 Superstar Restaurant
19-27 Wyndham Street, Central