Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hairy Crabs & Wines

It is a wonderful time of the year to be visiting Hong Kong.

©2009 Am Ang Zhang/Bauhinia Press
The weather is generally cooler and most important of all; it is the season of Hairy Crabs (Eriocher sinensis).

Hairy Crab Eriocher sinensis 
©2009 Am Ang Zhang/Bauhinia Press

By now, the female crabs would be laden with roes and many restaurants advertise their “Crab Dinners”.

Wine drinking in Hong Kong has also taken off in recent years and with the recent zero taxation policy it is fast becoming a major player in the wine auction business and wine drinking has now replaced Cognac drinking in a big way: for health reasons of course.

Traditionally Hairy Crab is served with a Chinese Wine (Shaoxing Yellow Wine 花雕酒 ) and if you can get hold of a good quality one it is a pleasant enough pairing.

Is there an alternative? A question I have been asked a number of times.
Hairy Crabs are fresh water crustaceans, although the female crabs do spend some time in the sea during the spawning season. The female crab is consumed earlier in the season and it has wonderful rich crimson roes. The male crab is best about a month later than the female and the good ones have  a very distinctive and delicate flavour.  Traditionally Crabs are served with a rich ginger and vinegar sauce, the vinegar is dark and cuts through the rich roes.

Here is where the problem of wine pairing is: Ginger and vinegar. 
The French tended to use one pairing when faced with such a situation: Champagne.

If money is no object, my pick would be: Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé Brut of any Vintage you can pick. In 2007, I visited Taittinger and they ran out of the Comtes Rosé. I settled for the Blanc de Blanc and I would suggest that it too will go well with the Hairy Crabs. The French President serves Comtes de Champagne for State banquets. Now you know.

The Rosé indeed has a fairly deep pink colour and would impress your guests as it matches the colour of the roes and the cooked shells.

To enjoy the champagne, I would certainly go easy on the vinegar.

For those looking for value for money, I would recommend Gosset Grand Rose NV. Gosset is in the village of Ay and right next door to Bollinger.

Many white wines will also go well with Hairy Crabs and my personal preference would be a good Pinot Gris from the Alsace, and at a third the price of basic champagne, it is excellent value for money.

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