You may have noticed that seafood lovers and crab connoisseurs across the city tend to get little excited around this time of the year. Well, it’s that time again as the season for hairy crab — which only lasts approximately two months of the year — is finally upon us. Known as the Chinese mitten crab, thanks to furry claws, this prized delicacy is mostly eaten for its rich and creamy roe. And here in Hong Kong, it’s often transformed into a dish highlighting just that, making the most of that precious roe without ever getting your hands dirty.
Case in point is PIIN Wine Restaurant, where they have crafted three seasonal hairy crab dishes, with no shell in sight, to choose from. But the real question is: how can we step it up a flavour notch and pair it with wine? Well, you’ll be glad to know that we went straight to the source (or is that sauce?) and asked award-winning Head Sommelier Reeze Choi about which wines we should be pairing these hairy crab dishes with.
In general, Choi suggests that hairy crab should be paired with white wines of high acidity and with fruity wine. Rich minerality is also recommended as hairy crab has a savoury taste. Much like how the crab is commonly served with vinegar, acidity in wine can help manage the strong-flavoured roe.
Pan fried “Pipa” style tofu topped with hairy crab
Perfect with: Domaine François Villard, Condrieu 2008
Compared to other Condrieu Viogniers, this pale gold wine has a leaner texture and bears brighter, more refreshing acidity overall. It is floral on the nose and has a delightfully tropical and honeydew palate. The solid stony minerality and its full body structure is a great match for hairy crab, while acidity not only cuts through the strong flavours, but also any oiliness that comes from the pan-fried bean curd.
Deep fried stuffed hairy crab meat
Perfect with: Jean-François Mérieau, Tu Le Boa Sauvignon 2005
This unique, sherry-like Sauvignon from Loire Valley, is an off-dry style wine that pairs fantastically with this croquette-esque dish. The lemony acidity adds a touch of sweetness and balances so well with the richness of this dish. It will also draw out the flavours of the sea and hairy crab, while extending the briny after taste.
Flat rice noodles braised with hairy crab
Perfect with: Domaine Macle, Château-Chalon 1990
This is another unique wine, a vin jaune or yellow wine, from Jura in eastern France. Similar to Fino sherry, it’s full of nuttiness and dry fruit, but comes with high acidity. Furthermore, accents of saline, stones, and honeysuckle make this the ideal wine that matches harmoniously with hairy crab braised flat noodles.