Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hairy Crabs at Putien and the Autumn Menu

Putien is a wonderful of my favourites. And Hairy Crabs is a delicacy specific to the season. Female crabs are best in October, and male hairy crabs best in November. And male crabs are more tasty.

I originally thought that the delicacy of hairy crabs are in the roe...thus the question...why do male crabs have roe? Interesting...and the man to explain this was Chef Billy Li.

Chef Li was articulate (in Mandarin), and passonate about his food, and was extremely happy to explain. Apparently two of the most famous lakes for hairy crabs are the Taihu and Yanghu. Taihu is upstream, so the water is purer. I asked if there was a difference in taste, and Chef Li said none. But there were fake Taihu crabs...some of the crabs have been caught elsewhere, but for 3 weeks are put in Taihu and labelled Taihu crabs.

Characteristics of the real hairy crab from Taihu are greenish black shell, yellow hair on the tips of the legs, a white belly and the tips of the legs are golden brown.

Each crab is approximately 210g (female crabs 180g each), and just plainly steamed.

The service staff peel the crabs for you...

And presented thus

Now the roe...actually, Chef Li explained the golden yellow stuff is not roe, but the fat. Apparently all summer the crabs feed on the plentiful food and get fat. Autumn is thus the best period to eat the crabs as they have had their full feed, and preparing for winter.

The yellow fat was extremely rich tasting, a bursting in the mouth...a full bodied mouthfeel. Aromatic, the texture was a bit like the yolk of a nicely poached egg, whilst the taste was more like a salted egg yolk without the salty sensation.

The body meat and legs were succulent and very tender. Wonderful. I never understood the appeal of hairy crabs until this tasting. Now I am a convert.

We also tasted the Putien Autumn menu...starting with the some braised soy beans with shitake

Very interesting dish. The soy is kind of a robust flavour, and the intriguing broth made by stewing pork bones and old hens stock in low heat is wonderful. Very wholesome.

Next, Red mushroom soup

Very interesting dish. Not really my favourite, but I certainly do appreciate how it is made. Red mushroom is used (seen beside the white tofu), and gives the broth the red hue. A pig's stomach is used, and filled with the ingredients to make tofu. The stomach then cooked at 80C and when ready to serve, the stomach is cut open to reveal the tofu inside, which is cut into tentacle like structures. The tofu is very delicate tasting.

Next we had the Claypot chestnut with pig tendons

Chestnut is braised with pig tendons. Beef tendons is common, but this must be one of the first time I have eaten pig tendons. Very good. The delicate flavour, with a chewy, springy texture. Full of collagen and goes very well with the chestnuts.

A boiling cauldron of tofu was next

With savoury crab roe, the home made tofu was silken, delicate, light and refreshing.

Braised pumpkin with mini shrimps

Very interesting. The pumpkin is deep fried to boost the flavour, and then steamed so the resulting texture is moist and fragrant. The tiny shrimps are fully grown, but very tiny....perhaps like krill, but pack some power. Very savoury sweet and powerful taste. Very nice.

As usual with Putien, their lumian is a must

Wonderful seafood stock with fresh seafood, crisp vegetables. Very nice.

And the simplest of desserts

Something so simple can bring so much pleasure. Served with a sweetened ginger tea (wonderful drink...I highly recommend a cup or two). Very nice.

A light tea was served throughout lunch...

Light, fragrant. This is tekuanyin, but green. Nice.

Once again, Putien does a wonderful Autumn menu. Worth a visit or two. Now I am looking forward to their Winter menu.

This is an invited review. Many thanks to Melissa Koh of Putien for the invitation.

127 Kitchener Road
6295 6358

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