As a New Yorker I anticipate signs of change, marked indications such as the cherry blossom festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the rising hemline on Spring Street, outdoor picnics on the Great Lawn, and sidewalk cafes extending out into the street. One harbinger of good times to come is the soft shell crab, now in season and making appearances on menus across the city. Some recent tastings have caused me to reflect and compare different preparations.
Chan Noodle on Mulberry Street lightly batters their crabs and deep fries them to crisp perfection. Slivers of garlic and scallions are added to enhance the flavors.
At Phoenix Garden, the Cantonese method of deep frying prompted this response from my friend Ola, â€œThis crab makes me wanna punch somebody.â€
Tomoe Sushi on Thompson Street cuts a delectable Spider roll, soft shell crab battered and fried, balanced by cucumbers and wrapped in wakame and rice.
Sripraphai in Woodside, Queens offers good value with a pile of soft shell crabs, spicing things up a bit with Thai chilis.
Though not soft shell, Fatty Crab is home to the chili crab, a piece of work that easily could pass for the most divine crab dish in New York. The shell must be cracked, and you must protect against a big mess with a tucked napkin in your shirt, but the slow, steady labor pays off handsomely.
All of these soft shell crab preparations have two elements in common: proper crispy texture with succulent, moist crab meat filling.
I dream of a soft shell crab festival, not unlike the festival of San Gennaro or the upcoming barbecue tasting near Times Square. Just substitute for crab, and add a glass of champagne or two. Dazzling.