Sawagani is a species of freshwater crabs found throughout Japan. They are about the size of a potato chip, and when fried, are delightfully similar in texture, as well. Their flavor is fresh and crisp, like a concentrated variation of soft shelled crab, and they are often consumed like popcorn shrimp as an otsumami, a bar snack, fried and garnished with lemon and salt. The whole crab is edible in one bite, with the exterior crunch of the shell juxtaposed against the buttery, unctuous interior.
Japanese freshwater crabs can also be prepared in the spirit of moeche, an Italian dish named after the soft shelled crabs found in and around Venice. This region has an entrenched tradition in which the local fishermen, molecanti, carefully monitor the waters in the spring and the fall, when the crabs molt, or shed their hard exterior shells. Once molting, there is a brief window of only a few hours before the crabs’ new shells will harden. Once caught, the crabs are washed, dipped in eggs and flour, fried until golden, and splashed with lemon over polenta.
Sawagani molt more frequently, continuously yielding delicious, soft shells that are always ready to be cooked and eaten, never hardening as intensely as moeche. Though we most certainly feel that these little bright red crustaceans are best appreciated in a culinary context, some find these freshwater crabs endearing enough to keep in terrariums and aquariums around the house. Ours are sent to you live, and assuming they will indeed be enjoyed as a meal, please be sure to cook them all the way through before serving.
Shipped live, in packs of 250g