Menu Secrets: Get Crabby at Chinatown’s Hop Woo

Blue crab body—not the legs—is an bargain off-menu special at Hop Woo

If there ever was a clear contrast in eating styles between the Chinese and many Westerners, it is evident in the way we eat crab. Come to my family’s house when we’re steaming a pot of live crabs and you’ll see how lots of Chinese folks enjoy their crab. The first thing you’ll notice is that we aren’t fighting over the legs—it’s the body we lust.

In fact, if you go to Shanghai during hairy crab season (yes, it’s really a crab with furry claws), you’ll understand that the body is prized over the legs and claws. This is partly because there is very little meat on the appendages, but mainly for the reason that the body is rich with a collage of flavors and textures.

Eating the body of a crab can be challenging for the uninitiated, who are used to tossing away the gut-filled shell. For this feat, a decent amount of finger dexterity is desirable. Peel back the abdomen from the shell to reveal a treasure trove of delicious decapod innards, but before diving in, take a deep sip of the briny, sweet, and slightly bitter broth infused with organs and ocean. Toss out the gills. Pick away at the lump meat and viscera.

But, if you’d rather have someone else do all the grunt work for you and serve up the good stuff without the crab-cracking mess, head over to Hop Woo BBQ & Seafood Restaurant where it’s available off-menu. The Blue Crab Eggs ($10), as chef Lupe Liang refers to this dish, is one of several so-called “aphrodisiac dishes” offered at the restaurant, that is, if you know what to ask for.

Three servings of creamy crab eggs along with its “butter” are plated inside the shells. A simple steaming is the cooking method. The eggs and fat are then dressed with a dollop of sambal sauce and sprig of cilantro. Consuming this dish is allegedly beneficial for fertility in both men and women, and, like chef Liang himself puts it, “Good for man. Good for woman. Good for love.” It also aids in blood circulation, which opens up all kinds of possibilities.

So now, when asked, how do you like your crab? Just remember: the legs are great, but the body is butter.

redarrow Hop Woo BBQ & Seafood, 845 N. Broadway, Chinatown, 213-617-3038