Jul 7, 2010

Street crabs

I encountered a waidi street peddler sitting on a curb near the vegetable sellers outside my apartment complex. This particular peddler had a large, plastic wash basin at his feet containing several huge crabs. They looked kind of like Dungeness crabs.

I was very interested because crabs in China tend to be of the river variety. River crabs and lake crabs are a lot smaller than ocean crabs. The local crabs have good flavor, but not much meat. I need Dungeness or king crab, something with lots of chunky meat. I can't be bothered to do lots and lots of picking for an ounce of crab meat.

I walked over to the peddler, and said to him, "So you got some crabs, huh?".

"Sure do," he says to me.

I looked down for a close-up look at the basin full of crabs. Immediately, one thought came to mind: "F no."

These were not spunky, creepy crawly crabs, trying their hardest to escape from their enclosure. No, this peddler had a plastic bin full of dead crabs, sitting unrefrigerated in the mid-afternoon heat, which happened to be in the low 90s that day.

If there's one thing to avoid, it's rotten shellfish and crabs. Crabs go bad like crazy once they've died. Ever watch Deadliest Catch, and notice how when they get to the crab processor plant, they end up having to throw away lots of crab carcasses from the holding tanks of the ships? That's because there's too much that can go wrong from steaming and eating dead crabs. You don't know how long they've been dead, and how much bacterial growth there is. Sure, you can give it the old smell test, but that's not a sure thing.

If you want to save a few cents, be my guest and sort through the dead crab bin at your local Korean grocery store, or buy dead crabs from the waidi ren on the street. I'm holding out for fresh, live crab myself.


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