Signs of Spring: First of the Season Soft-Shell Crabs at Mokomandy

Posted by / Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Photo by Stefanie Gans

“The sweetest, meatiest,” soft-shell crabs are now escaping from the Chesapeake Bay, says Mokomandy‘s chef Daniel Wilcox Stevens. These early soft-shells have the biggest food supply, which is how Steven’s explains their superior taste.  They are eating “a lot of the plant matter, and deritus (fallen algae, kelp) and organic material that’s left over from the ecosystem.” As bottom-feeders, crabs will be eventually eat what’s left over on the ocean floor—or as Stevens says, “They’re not eating as much decaying stuff…these crabs are eating the best available.” 

Stevens spent his summers in Cape Cod learning about the sea from his aunt, a marine biologist at the New England Aquarium, and the nautically geeky chef regularly follows sea temperatures on NOAA to know when more crabs will come in. 

For the next two or three weeks, Stevens is making a soft-shell crab BLT and a tempura fried soft-shell crab over fried rice. The latter: the sweet and almost-floral crabs are battered in a basic tempura, but with the addition of brandy for a lighter and fluffier crust. The rice is sweetened with ginger-infused honey and made pleasantly greasy with house-made ghost chili oil, sesame oil and soy. Carrots, cabbage, daikon and scrambled egg poke through the grains, as well as bits of a three-day cured, and 4-hour, cold-smoked, house-made “smoked chili ham.” / 20789 Great Falls Plaza, Unit 176, Sterling.

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