People have been emailing me for a few weeks now. “When are Chinese restaurants starting their King Crab specials?” “Isn’t it time for King Crabs?” “I want my King Crab – where are they?”
It used to be like clockwork, one go around with King Crabs in the late fall, then another just after Chinese New Year. Pioneered by Sun Sui Wah, Chinese restaurants started building large holding tanks for the live crabs. Huge feasts of king crab, giant platters of freshly steamed legs, a dream of beautiful fresh seafood. A fantastic made-in-Vancouver experience.
With the growing demand for seafood in China though, local Chinese restaurants have been out-bid by offshore buyers not only for King Crab, but also for geoduck clams and dungeness crabs. As a result, the local King Crab season has gotten shorter, the timing less certain.
This weekend, I was meeting some old friends for dinner at Hoi Tong Restaurant in Richmond – one of my favorites. I sit down, ready to order some of their specialties, when I overheard the table beside me talking about King Crabs. I ask the waiter over and he indeed confirms that the season started just a couple of days ago.
Hurrah! What an amazing piece of luck.
Not having tanks of their own, the chef’s wife goes to the seafood shop nearby to pick me out a crab (this means that you have to eat early, before the shop closes).
Hoi Tong’s price is just over $25 a pound, while other restaurants are charging about $19 a pound or less. Let me tell you, the price difference was worth it. The care that the team at Hoi Tong show in their craft is astounding – it was the best King Crab meal I have ever had. The three of us ate an 8 pound crab on our own. Gluttons!
The legs were perfectly steamed under a carpet of garlic – I mean perfectly. The meat, sweet and luscious, just barely clinging to the shell. We end up with two huge platters of crab legs, and here’s the atttention to detail that’s killer – the second platter arrives just as the first platter is done – kitchen timing the dishes so the crab it always at it’s finest for the diner. Incredible.
The knuckles were stir fried with sweet soy – again – perfectly cooked, with the sauce just cloaking the big mouthfuls of the sweet crab.
The final course were egg noodles (or wonton noodles) tossed in the crab sauce from the first course. Complete perfection – so deep with crab flavor – showered with finely chopped green onions and tiny slivers of yunnan ham. I swear, it tasted like there were flecks of butter in the noodles.
So how should you get in on the King Crab action?
Go now, early in the season, while the crabs are at their largest and finest. The season is short – maybe lasting only three or four weeks.
Pick a reputable restaurant and confirm their prices – Kirin, Sun Sui Wah, Jade Seafood, Sea Harbour, Dynasty on West Broadway, Red Star on South Granville all are excellent choices. Legs steamed with garlic is a classic. You may want to add a course of Portuguese style fried rice stuffed and baked in the shell.
This is a really Vancouver only experience and I love it.
canucklehead pays for all of his own food and beverages