Image by spiralmushroom via Flickr
|A soft-shell crab served in a bowl of noodle soup.|
The appeal of a soft-shell crab is clear: You enjoy all the meat without the bother of cracking open all that shell.
The crab does the work for you by shedding its shell several times between late May and September as it grows larger.
Crabs are my son's favorite food, so for a celebratory lunch after his 8th-grade graduation ceremony on Monday, we drove over to Lotus Cafe, the Chinese restaurant in Hackensack.
We wanted to have soft-shell crabs at Lotus Cafe for dinner on June 18, but they ran out of them early that evening.
A few weeks ago, we had them prepared in Wondee's great Panang curry, but the Thai restaurant in Hackensack was out of them on Sunday, June 19.
Lotus Cafe prepares them three ways: in a spicy garlic sauce, with ginger and scallion or fried -- a preparation called pepper and salt.
We ordered them in garlic sauce and fried, along with water spinach in fresh garlic, soup and bowls of white and brown rice.
It was a big lunch, but I was happy with canned vegetable soup, and fruit and cheese for dinner.
Lotus Cafe says it uses three crabs in each entree ($19.95).
The delicious garlic-sauce crab was cut into bite-size pieces and sauteed with crunchy pieces of celery and water chestnuts, and strips of seaweed.
The second crab entree also was cut into pieces, beautifully fried, and served with bits of garlic and hot pepper. The plate was garnished with a "flower" made from radish, I believe, using toothpicks and a rubber band.
Although soft-shell crab entrees at restaurants are a sure sign of summer, I haven't seen any in the market.
At Whole Foods Market in Paramus, soft-shell crabs are sold breaded and fried for $5.99 each, an employee at the seafood counter said Tuesday.
You can buy them online. One Web site is offering a dozen frozen soft-shell crabs for $99.95.
The official Maryland Seafood site says the Chesapeake Bay blue crab increases "by one-third in size" during shedding.
Lotus Cafe, 450 Hackensack Ave.,
in the Home Depot Shopping Center,
Hackensack; 201-488-7070. BYO.
Wondee's Fine Thai Food & Noodles,
296 Main St., 201-883-1700; BYO, parking in rear,