Crabs– cooking them fills the entire house with their aroma, and you know you’re going to have a blast of a meal.
But what about soft-shelled ones? They’re the same yet different in a way and are a significant part of Thai cuisine.
So what does Soft Shell Crab taste like, and how different are they from regular crab meat? Eating these crabs doesn’t mean just eating their meat; you can relish their tender shell too.
And how can you buy them and cook them to enhance their taste further? Let’s find out.
What is Soft Shell Crab?
Soft shell crab is what its name suggests– it is just a crab, but one with a soft shell.
Crabs, like many Ecdysozoa, molt their outer shell and have a vulnerable soft shell for a short period.
These are harvested for culinary uses and are called soft-shell crabs.
The crabs can be caught right before or after the molting season.
If you catch them before their molting, you’ll have to preserve them in a suitable environment until their exoskeleton sheds.
You might assume that it would be unnecessary to discard the shell if it’s soft, and it’s true.
You can eat almost all the parts of a soft-shell crab.
However, their gills, abdominal cover, and mouth are discarded during cleaning.
They’re abundantly found from April through September in the US and make excellent dishes to pair with any food or drink.
And unlike hard-shelled ones, you needn’t spend any time removing the shells.
What Does Soft Shell Crab Taste Like?
If you’ve eaten regular hard-shelled crabs, you’re already halfway to knowing the taste of soft-shelled ones.
Also called ‘softies’ because of their pliable shells, the whole of their bodies are edible; you’ll have an easier time trying to get a bite.
And like any other crab, these softies have an off-white meat color.
Their taste profile is simple: the meat of soft-shelled crab is delicately sweet and buttery with a mild scent of the sea which adds a tangy accent to the overall flavor.
But the flavor can vary depending on the seasonings you use and how you prepare them.
Meanwhile, its texture is tender, flaky, and juicy, with a slight satisfying crunch from the shell.
Once you try it, you’ll find that soft-shell crab tastes very similar to lobster.
The difference is that the crabs are sweeter and have a flakier texture than lobster.
Fried soft-shell crab has a lot more crunch and is drier on the mouth but still flavorful.
And if you cook them with gravy or broth, the crab’s flavor will fill every ingredient with its richness and give you a hearty meal.
What’s interesting about these carbs is that you cannot define them by taste alone.
Their nutritional benefits are so impressive that you cannot decide why you’d want to try them.
They’re low in fat and calories (a thing of interest for people on a diet) and rich in protein and minerals.
And they’re also a healthier substitute for other kinds of meat.
How to Cook Soft Shell Crab?
You needn’t go overboard with complicated cooking methods and seasonings when cooking crab meat.
They already have a rich flavor, so you might risk losing the natural flavors while experimenting with sophisticated techniques.
- Deep-fried and served with vinaigrette: This is one classic way to prepare crabs; most people know about it, but nothing can replace its crunchy, tender, and flavorful harmony of flavor. .
- Sushi: Having ethnic food on the table instantly elevates a dining menu. And when you’re working with seafood, you cannot do without some Japanese sushi. You need only thoroughly clean the crab and season it with salt, soy, or anything that will complement its taste.
- Spicy stew: If you have fresh produce lying in your pantry, you can turn them into a flavorful stew using soft-shell crab. Anything from mushrooms to radishes and spring onions can make their way into the stew. Just add some chili paste to tie everything together in a spicy way.
- Carb sandwich: Your soft-shell crabs don’t have to be saved for dinners alone; save a few for an afternoon. Simply season, bread, and deep-fry the crabs and sandwich them with lettuce, tomatoes, and mayo. It’s easy, and everyone will be impressed.
How to Buy Soft Shell Crab?
Feeling stuck about purchasing your first soft-shell crab? We’ve listed some tips below to make everything easier for you.
- Look for them when in season: Knowing when the soft-shelled crabs are due in season will make preparations easier. This applies to ordering cooked soft-shell crabs at a restaurant or buying them at a seafood market.
- Buy live crabs: The problem with dead crabs is that they won’t have much flavor as live ones. Even its texture will start to disintegrate as you start cooking. Check if the crabs are moving and even try holding them to see if they have all their claws and legs.
- Try a smell test: Sometimes, you can get away with buying dead crabs if it hasn’t been long enough, but always smell it before buying. It shouldn’t have too much odor, something that instantly penetrates your nostrils with a robust unpleasant smell as you sniff it.
- Check the softness of their shells: Soft-shell crab isn’t just any crab that looks like it has soft shells. Try feeling it with your hands and see if they’re pliable. If they are, buy them. And if they are even slightly paper-like, they’re far gone to becoming hard-shelled ones.
Soft-shell crabs are an interesting way to eat crabs.
You don’t have to waste time removing the shells, so you get a larger portion to eat.
The only thing you need to be wary of is when to find them.
They are best when their shells have just been molted and have a vulnerable exoskeleton.
You can munch them together with the meat.
So always check the crabs well before buying them, preferably live and smelling fresh.
Pair them with a delicious recipe, and you can enjoy the best seafood dinner of a lifetime.