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Are Japanese Spider Crabs Edible? Everything You Need To Know

are japanese spider crabs edible

Can you really eat a spider crab? Read on to find out are Japanese spider crabs edible here!

Japanese Spider crabs are the largest crustaceans on the earth. They are also known as “Macrocheira kaempferi” or takaashigani in Japanese which is loosely translated to “long-legged crab”. They look like a giant spider because of their extremely long legs.

Although they might look like giants, they are gentle creatures. They are characterised as arthropods since they don’t have a backbone, external skeletons and multiple jointed appendages which are its ten legs.

They have the largest leg span of 3.7m from claw-to-claw, which is the highest in any arthropod. They lay up to 1.5 million eggs per season which takes about ten days to hatch. They are not avid hunters and prey on dead animals or plant matters mostly.

Are Japanese Spider Crabs Edible?

Japanese spider crabs are crustaceans that are edible and a very popular delicacy in Japan. However, you won’t find Japanese spider crabs in regular restaurants. The white meat from the claws of the Japanese spider crabs is known to be very flavorful. Japanese spider crabs’ meat is used in sandwiches and pastas to make it more flavorful. 

Fishing for them is not easy since they live deep inside the ocean. They are usually caught in small trawling nets by fishermen. 

In an effort to protect and maintain the number of their species, fishing for them is banned during the spring mating season since the last few years saw a serious decline in their numbers.

Japanese Spider Crabs are edible and are savoured by people around the world for their rich flavour. They have a unique taste and texture which makes them a delicious treat. They are also a great option if you’re looking for sustainable and cheaper options in seafood.

Benefits Of Eating Japanese Spider Crabs

Japanese Spider Crabs contain a lot of nutrients that are highly beneficial for the body. 

  1. Proteins: Proteins are essential for healthy skin, hair, muscles, nails etc. They help in the growth and development of your organs and are essential for their proper functioning. You can find a good source of dietary protein in crab meat which can be easily digested because of the lack of connective tissue. They also contain less saturated fat as compared to regular meat so there is less chance of heart problems.
  1. Omega 3 fatty acids: This is a common nutrient found in marine animals and they are abundant in Japanese Spider Crabs. They play an important role in  maintaining cell membranes. They also help in various functions in the body like improving heart rate, mental health, managing weight, decreasing liver fat, fighting inflammations etc. They also help in accelerating brain development, especially in infants. 
  1. Selenium: This mineral is essential for a healthy body. It makes sure that your metabolism is working properly and the levels of thyroid in your body are balanced. It also helps in slowing and preventing mental health decline due to ageing. The selenium levels in your body play a huge role in your reproductive health, DNA synthesis, immunity etc, so it is essential for your overall well being. A deficiency in Selenium may lead to infertility, muscle weakness, fatigue etc.
  1. Riboflavin: This is also known as Vitamin B2. They are essential for having healthy eyes, hair, liver, skin etc. They help in the proper functioning of the nervous system. It is essential to consume foods rich in Vitamin B2 since they are water soluble and are not stored in the body. If you are someone who is involved in a lot of physical activities such as athletics, sports or exercise, it is even more important to consume foods rich with adequate levels of riboflavin.
  1. Copper and Phosphorous: Crab meat has more concentration of copper than cod, salmon, chicken beef etc. It helps in the smooth flow of bodily functions such as the formation of collagen, absorption of iron, energy production, proper functioning of the brain, cell growth etc. Consuming 100g of crab meat can deliver 62% of the daily recommended value. 

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Preparing A Japanese Spider Crab

Cooking a Japanese Spider Crab can be physically demanding and tedious. Ideally, it is recommended to leave the crab in a fridge for a few hours to kill it. After that, place it on its back and make a sharp knife cut straight through its back. This makes sure that it has had a swift demise. 

Because of their enormous size and leg span, Japanese spider crabs can be a bit more tricky to cook than a regular crab. The first step is to put them in a large pot of  boiling water and cover it with a lid. 

It should be placed for about 15-20 minutes per kilo in boiling water. You can adjust the time according to the weight and the number of crabs. After it is cooked properly in boiling water, you have to remove the grey spongy gills and the stomach sac that can be found right behind the jaws. 

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It is also recommended to rinse it to remove any excess protein. You can also use the stock water to prepare other dishes like stew or paella. You can then start breaking off its legs which are rich in crab meat. You can use a hammer or a rolling pin to make the process easier.

The body contains flavourful meat which is deemed sweeter than the rest of the crab meats by many. Separate the body and the shell before scraping down the meat. Make sure to discard the pointed gills from the centre of its body. 

You can find both brown and white meat in a single crab so you can choose to separate it or mix it according to what the recipe demands. Preparing the Japanese spider crab is a tiresome job and calls for a lot of manual work which adds to the price tag of these dishes. 

The price of a plate of this delicacy can range from 100$ to 500$ which is slightly on the pricier side, but it’s still cheaper than a lot of seafood like clams and caviar. It is also a bit trickier to eat. Some people enjoy picking it with their fingers but some find it cumbersome. 

You can either eat it using your fingers or use tools like small knives, metal kebab skewers, pliers and other crab-picking tools. Let us go through some simple recipes you can make using the Japanese Spider crab.

Related: Why Japanese Eat Raw Fish

Japanese Spider Crab Recipes

Boiled Spider Crab

Ingredients

  • 2 Medium sized spider crab
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 Bay leaves

Steps

  1. Add the bay leaves, 2-3 spoons of coarse salt and plenty of water into a big pot.
  2. Bring it to a boil.
  3. If the crab is alive, put it in cold water before putting it into the boiling pot so it does not break its legs.
  4. Once it is in the boiling pot, let it cook for about 15- 18 minutes (you can adjust it according to the size of the crab).
  5. Drain the water and let it sit until it comes down to room temperature.
  6. Open the crab, cut it and serve.

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Baked Spider Crabs

Ingredients

  • 1.5Kg cooked spider crab
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 large spring onion, finely sliced
  • 1 leek, only the white part finely sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, peeled and deseeded
  • 150ml tomato sauce
  • 50ml brandy
  • 1 ladle shellfish stock
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Few knobs of butter
  • 1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley

Steps

  1. Boil the crab with salt and drain it. Let it come down to room temperature.
  2. Remove the legs and claws of the crab and set it aside. Separate the shell of the crab from its body by turning the crab upside down. You can later use the shell to put the sauce in.
  3. Remove the brown meat from inside the shell and put it in another bowl. Remove the gills and pull out the brown meat from the centre of the body.
  4. Open the claws and legs using hammers and pull out the white meat. Make sure there are no hard bits in the meat.
  5. In a medium sized pan, heat oil and butter. Slowly add the onions, leek and poach and slow-cook for 15- 20 minutes.
  6. Use the ladle of the shellfish stock to wet the sauce and add the meat. Stir and cook well for a few minutes.
  7. Pour the sauce into the shell. Make sure that the consistency of the sauce is right. It shouldn’t be too liquid or dry. Add a layer of breadcrumbs and butter for the extra flavour.
  8. Preheat your oven at 200° C and bake the crab shell for about twelve minutes or until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown. Sprinkle parsley on the crumbs before serving for an added flavour.

Japanese spider crabs can be turned into a number of delicacies including broths with garlic or chilli flavour, crab cakes, crab rolls, crab ravioli etc. You can store it in the refrigerator for up to four days. 

Make sure to check the crab by smelling and tasting it to make sure that it is not spoiled. You should also not put a live crab inside boiling water since their legs could get detached.

Also Read:

  1. Why Japan Does Watermelon Better?
  2. Kaki: Japanese Persimmon
  3. Why Japanese Melons Are So Expensive?
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