Crab de­light

‘Venice of the Ori­ent’ beck­ons with its prized del­i­cacy

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By CANG WEI in Suzhou, Jiangsu prov­ince cang­wei@chi­

Crabs har­vested from Yangcheng Lake in Jiangsu prov­ince are none for be­ing “ten­der, sweet and juicy”.

Jiang Wanchun put aside 2,000 yuan ($300) last month to buy his fa­vorite seafood— crabs.

The 65-year-old Suzhou res­i­dent is a crab con­nois­seur. Ev­ery year, from Septem­ber to De­cem­ber, he spends one-fourth of his monthly salary to buy the del­i­cacy. The city in Jiangsu prov­ince, EastChina, has been one of the coun­try’s tourist fa­vorites for cen­turies.

The picky re­tired book­store man­ager only eats those har­vested from the nearby Yangcheng Lake. The crab meat is “ten­der, sweet and juicy”, he said.

“There’s a rea­son that the Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs have made their names na­tion­wide,” said Jiang. These crabs are usu­ally sold across the coun­try, grad­u­ally be­com­ing a din­ner ta­ble lux­ury, which en­cour­ages farm­ers to raise hairy crabs in other wa­ters in the re­gion.

“Un­like many lakes that ex­ist on top of mud, Yangcheng Lake has nu­mer­ous stones on its bed. There­fore, the crabs have clean white bel­lies and do not have the an­noy­ing taste of mud in their meat.

“Also, stones on the bed are more slip­pery than mud. To move around, the crabs need to use more strength, which will help their mus­cles grow firmer and (make their meat) taste more de­li­cious,” he said.

A method to check whether a crab is har­vested from Yangcheng Lake is to tilt a piece of glass with an an­gle of 30 de­grees and see if it can climb to the top of the glass, ac­cord­ing to Jiang.

“Only those from Yangcheng Lake that have firm legs can climb to the top,” Jiang said.

How­ever, he is not happy with the high price of crabs this year. Due to the many rainy days in sum­mer, the crabs are slower and smaller, but the price al­most dou­bles com­pared with last year.

On pop­u­lar e-com­merce plat­forms, a box of eight 250-gram crabs is sold for around 1,400 yuan. The smaller ones, weigh­ing 100 to 150 grams, are sold for about 30 yuan a crab.

“Com­pared with my friends in Sichu an prov­ince, I should be happy with the price here ,” sai d Jiang. “They told me that a 30-yuan cra­bin Suzhou is sold for about 100 yuan there.”

Zhou Xue­long, deputy di­rec­tor of the Yangcheng Lake Crab In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion, said that the out­put of the Yangcheng Lake crabs will be down by 15 per­cent this year, while the price will in­crease by at least 20 per­cent.

“The price will be the high­est in 10 years,” said Zhou. “Part of the rea­son is that the water area avail­able to farm crabs will be cut in­half.”

Ac­cord­ing to Zhou, the area will be cut from 2,130 hectares to 1,065 hectares by the end of this year. The lo­cal govern­ment is re­duc­ing the area to bet­ter pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment.

Yan Jinhu, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the as­so­ci­a­tion, said that the lake will pro­duce about 2,000 met­ric tons of hairy crabs this year, which can hardly meet the de­mand of the mar­ket.

“Apart from a large pro­por­tion ex­ported to East and South­east Asia, more than half of the Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs are sold through the in­ter­net,” said Yan.

“In an ef­fort to pre­vent fraud, each Yangcheng Lake crab is given a unique num­ber en­graved on a ring fit­ted on one of its legs.”

How­ever, he ad­mit­ted that it is easy to pro­duce fake rings, and some are al­ready avail­able in the mar­ket.

“The best way to have the real Yangcheng Lake crabs is to go to Suzhou,” Yan said.

“You can en­joy the pic­turesque views of the scenic city and taste the au­tumn del­i­cacy at the same time.”


Hairy crabs raised on Yangcheng Lake in Suzhou, East China’s Jiangsu prov­ince, have been one of the coun­try’s best bites of au­tumn and are pop­u­lar across South­east Asia as well.


School­child­ren and lo­cal res­i­dents gather at the lake­side to sa­vor the first batch of hairy crabs com­ing from Yangcheng Lake on Sept 23.

Fish­ing boats have been roam­ing on Yangcheng Lake for the sea­sonal har­vest these days.

Lo­cal fish­er­men haul the sea­son’s first catch of crabs from Yangcheng Lake on Sept 23.

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