When the weather gets warmer, blue crabs shed their hard shells to build ones better suited to their growing bodies. Unfortunately for our crab friends, that’s when they’re snatched up and cooked to delicious soft-shell perfection. Here are four places to get your fix this season.
Richmond Station’s soft-shell tempura
Chef Carl Heinrich bases his menu on the best ingredients available right now (read: meaty soft-shell crabs). “They often coincide with the end of the ramps and the first of the spring peas,” he says. “Those flavours really work well together.” On some nights, Heinrich will make a soft shell stir-fry; on others, he’ll pan-fry the crab and serve it with peas and crushed potatoes. Here, the crab is fried in a light tempura batter, cut into pieces for sharing, and plated with charred tomato aioli, ramp pesto, and arugula.
$12, 1 Richmond St. W., 647-748-1444.
Catch’s soft-shell with asparagus, yogurt, goatmeal, and smoked walnuts
Rather than deep-frying her crab, chef Charlotte Langley opts for a lighter approach: cooking it over a screamingly hot cast-iron pan until the crab turns a bright red. She finishes it with goat butter, which Langley describes as more floral and fresh tasting than regular butter. The crab is garnished with smoked walnuts, a shaved asparagus salad with house-made goat yogurt, some more goat yogurt on the plate, and what she’s calling goatmeal: a crunchy crumble of raw oats, honey, and more goat butter. “I’m a dairy fiend,” she says.
$19 (available until late July). 744 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-658-0568.
Porchetta & Co.’s soft-shell crab club with porchetta
For the past three years, as soon as crab season hits, chef Nick auf der Mauer features his soft-shell po’ boy sandwich as a Saturday special, making famished fans salivate while they line up for this limited-time delicacy. This week, however, he’s switching things up with a soft-shell club that’s piled high and superbly sloppy. In between three slices of toast, auf der Mauer layers porchetta, crunchy crackling, hot sauce, bacon, tomatoes, soft-shell crab fried in a panko crust, lettuce, and house-made mayo. Get extra napkins.
$12.95. 825 Dundas St. W., 647-352-6611.
Hawker Bar’s chili crab
Chef Alec Martin torques this traditional Singaporean dish by using soft-shell instead of hard-shell crabs, partly to make the dish easier (and quicker) for customers to tear into. His spicy red-curry base is flavoured with galangal (a type of southeast Asian ginger), regular ginger, shallots, lime leaf, lemongrass, garlic, and chili. After cooking that down, Martin adds chili jam, coconut cream, and peanuts. Upon ordering, it’s finished with fish sauce, lime juice, and gula (palm sugar) for a sweet and sour bite. The crab itself is dusted in rice flour, making it a gluten-free dish, then fried and topped with a young-coconut salad.
$24. 164 Ossington Ave., 647-343-4698.