Soft-shell Crab — Spider Roll

“At some point in the life of every young crab, there comes a time to break out of one’s shell.”

Today I would like to introduce my little friend here.

This little blue crab is normally pretty shy because some people are unnerved by the sight of him. Every once in a great while however, he comes out of his shell — literally.

When a crab molts his shell, it’s great news for us…not so great news for him. They are touted as what I would a call a hassle-free crab; the entire crab is edible. You can find them fresh at some fish markets between April and September, but they are also available frozen year round. Frozen ones require less preparation, because with the fresh ones, well … (hmm how can I sugar coat this?) … you have to cut off their face and remove some gunk. Preparing crustaceans is generally not a pretty sight — not for the faint of heart. My sugar-coating prowess aside, I don’t imagine these would taste great coated in sugar. However, they are quite delicious when coated in tempura batter and deep-fried.

Yep, whole. Just like this: battered and fried twice.

This little guy often finds his way into sushi rolls, which may seem like a proportional conundrum, but it is actually not that complicated. You just have to break him up into smaller pieces so that he can fit into a maki with his claws still intact, which will add a cool dramatic effect to the final product. This type of sushi is called a futomaki, literally meaning “fat roll”. These are the larger types of maki, usually listed as “special maki” at sushi bars, and are more expensive than the smaller hosomaki.

You can remove some of the smaller legs as they don’t have very much meat and may inhibit eveness in rolling.

I like to add avocado and spicy mayo to this maki roll, which is like the version found at most sushi bars. This maki is typically called a spider roll because well, although a little bit creepy, you can’t really deny the resemblance

I have also seen these simply called soft shell crab rolls, but they usually don’t have the spider look to them.  Cut into 10 pieces, the crunchy and tender spider roll is then topped with eel sauce. This is a popular sushi condiment made to pair with eel, but may be paired with deep-fried maki or maki with a deep-fried element. Eel sauce is a thick, sweetened, soy sauce and is vegetarian friendly. At the sushi bar we occasionally get questions about eel sauce by people who are concerned by the name; but no it does not contain any actual essence of eel.

I wanted to share this ingredient and maki with you because it can definitely be intimidating when you don’t know what a soft shell crab is or why some pieces of the spider roll have claws protruding out. Unlike the tails sticking out of shrimp tempura rolls, not only are the claws edible, they are the most delicious part. So next time you are at a sushi bar, give a spider roll a try. This type of maki roll is actually one of the “safer” options for sushi newbies and they taste amazing. So there is only one thing left to ponder… what ever happened to his other legs?

The world may never know…

Until next time…

May the fish (and crab) be with you, young rainbow trout!

~Maki Zavelli, over and out <(^_^<)

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