There are two ways I know it’s Alaskan king crab season in Vancouver. There are countless restaurant ads with pictures of the spiny creatures all over the Chinese newspapers. Or my mother texts, “Want king crab dinner? It’s in season.”
As the Globe and Mail points out, however, it’s not really the “season” so much as “that short period in early spring when local distributors receive whatever remains of the live Alaskan catch that hasn’t already been shipped off to Asia.”
King crab is relatively expensive (but not really compared to Western fine dining), so it’s best to eat it with a lot of people. The crab is usually cooked a few different ways at the same meal. Cost isn’t the only reason of course; the more people you have, the more dishes you can share!
We’ve gone for two king crab dinners so far this season. The first was at Richmond’s Jade Seafood Restaurant (玉庭軒), where it was priced at $16.80/pound. It’s higher than other years because the commercial catches were much smaller this season. That also means supply is going to run out soon. (Jade has already raised prices to about $19/pound this week.)
For nine people, we got two crabs that were 10 and 8 pounds respectively. They were brought out to the table before being cooked, so you can verify what you ordered. Feel free to take pictures; everyone else does! Mom was disappointed they didn’t have one giant crab for our needs, but the waiter confirmed the prime ones get exported to Asia.
Most restaurants cook the crab two ways. The first is to cover the crab legs in minced garlic and then steam them for a pungent, drool-worthy first dish. This simple method is my favourite because it brings out the crab’s natural juices and sweet, moist meat.
No one talks at our table when this arrives because we’re too busy trying to eat as many legs as possible. My family are gluttons, yes, but they have good taste.
The second presentation (additional $10) is lightly battered and deep fried crab knuckles. This takes a bit more work to get the meat out of the joints but eating through the crusty layer of pepper salt, chile flakes, jalapenos, garlic and onions is half the fun.
At Jade, we opted for baked crab rice ($15) to use up the remainder of the creature. The rice is baked inside the main shell (the carapace) with what’s known as a Portuguese cream sauce. The rich sauce incorporates the crab’s deep yellowy-brown tomalley. It’s the guts, or more scientifically, the hepatopancreas. That, plus a bit of curry or turmeric powder, give the rice a yellow tinge.
Tomalley is high in cholesterol so it should be eaten in moderation. I love how much richness it gives the rice.
The next weekend, my crab-mad mother organized a dinner at Golden Ocean Seafood Restaurant (金海閣) in Kerrisdale. It’s most famous for still having the wheeled carts for dim sum. But its dinner offerings are nothing to sneeze at.
Here, the king crab was $12.80 per pound. We got a 10-pounder for six people. We started with the garlic legs and then the pepper salt joints. I cautiously gave H a few small pieces of steamed crab. He responded with an enthusiastic, “More! More!” Twice. This kid is developing an expensive palate.
Instead of baked rice, we got noodles ($10) tossed in the leftover garlic crab juices. This is a common thing to do, and most servers will offer this option as they’re clearing the crab legs dish. Definitely don’t let it go to waste.
We didn’t only have crab dishes at both dinners, but they were the highlight, of course.
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Jade Seafood Restaurant, 8511 Alexandra Rd., Richmond, B.C., (604) 249-0082. Open dim sum/lunch 9 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner 5-10 p.m. daily.
Room for strollers: No.
High chairs: Yes.
Access: Both restaurants are on the second floor accessed either by elevators or a long flight of stairs.
Change table: No.