The crab cuisine was featured prominently on the imperial banquet menu during the Southern Song Dynasty, which had its capital in Hangzhou, then called Lin’an.
Brief of Crab Steamed in Orange
This crab cuisine, called Xie Niang Cheng (蟹酿橙) in Chinese, has a recorded history of nearly a millennium. Crab was on China’s imperial tribute list and the crab cuisine was also featured prominently on the imperial banquet menu during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), which had its capital in Hangzhou, then called Lin’an.
Hangzhou cooks came up with the recipe in what was then the dynasty’s capital city because they wanted to find a graceful way of dining on crab. When the dish is served, the orange, with its top cut off, is placed in a glass cup or a bowl. The sliced white crab meat and the golden crab roe are inside the orange and mixed with the fruit’s flesh and other seasonings.
The crab meat absorbs the fragrance of the orange. Juice from the orange also cuts the crab roe grease and adds an appetizing flavor. It is eaten with a spoon, and diners are advised to take their time to savor the flavor. The recipe has been adapted by generations of chefs. Now the stuffing may contain crab, pork, chufa and egg. Chufa, also known as tiger nut, earth chestnut or earth almond, produces a tuber with a slightly almond taste. The seasonings often include ginger, pepper, salt, vinegar and alcohol. When the tender crab meat is steamed with the creamy roe and flesh of the orange, the flavor is delicate and complex — sweet at first, then a bit sour before turning sweet again.