Crabs, much sought by gourmets everywhere, inhabit most of the seas and sweet water environments of the world.
There are approximately 850 species, ranging in size of a few centimetres to four metres (Japanese spider crab).
They are covered with a thick exoskeleton and equipped with a pair of claws. Males have larger claws.
Crabs make up more or less 20 per cent of all crustaceans and are omnivorous feeding on algae, molluscs, worms, other crustaceans, fungi, bacteria, and detritus.
Hermit -, king-, porcelain-, and horseshoe crabs are not true crabs.
There are soft- and hard shell crabs. Soft shell crabs are those that have molted recently. When a crab reaches maturity in 12 – 18 months, and once it grows to more than 30 per cent of its size it must molt. After two to three months the shell hardens. It is during this period that soft shell crabs are fished, and enjoyed by gourmets.
Soft shell crabs
are marketed as whales, jumbos, primes, hotel size, and mediums. Most are shipped alive some are frozen.
In fine restaurants, soft shell crabs are simply pan-fried in clarified butter, or dipped in a thick batter and fried.
Of all the hard shell crabs blue- and Dungeness crabs are the most widely available and much liked by connoisseurs who delight in their “sweet” white meat.
Crabs are steamed, or boiled, or after boiling picked.
The meat is then used in crab cakes.
Gourmets prefer crab cakes for ease in eating. Eating whole Dungeness crabs requires determination, knowledge of anatomy, and time, but it is a worthwhile experience.
Thailand is famous for its crab farms.
Far Eastern populations like blue crabs, they are featured in North American oriental stores.
In England crabs are boilerd, picked, mixed with bread crumbs, butter and flavouring agents, and then stuffed intot eh cavity of the shell and baked.