A Complete Softy for Soft Shell Crab

Columns Ono, You Know

May 19, 2013

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Rachel Breit

I could live off of crab drenched in butter, I’m sure! Yet, I’ve always had a soft spot for soft shell crab.

For one, these little critters capture all the irresistible flavors of your everyday crab, but without the hassle. In other words, you don’t have to work for your food. The chore of prying the crab meat from its sharp, thick shell and making a mess of yourself — oh no, there’s none of that! Secondly, soft shell crab is usually deep-fried, and generally speaking, deep-fried anything is great!

Soft shell crab is one of those foods which many categorize as restaurant fare. These regular crabs (generally blue crabs) can be difficult to come by, so if you can snag this prized possession, then you’re golden!

Here’s the secret behind soft shell crab. The crab has outgrown its shell and, in order for it to continue to grow, it has to shed its shell, so a bigger one can emerge. The crab forms a “coat” during the shedding process and then puffs itself up to break the current shell. It only takes a couple of hours for the coat to harden into a new shell, so this window of time is precious for soft shell crab preparation. Before the crab’s coat hardens into a full-fledged shell, that’s when chefs will batter, fry, grill or broil these crustaceans to perfection.

So, this week, let’s put all crabbiness aside and indulge in soft shell crab bliss. Because, believe me, these soft shell crab masterpieces at the following Ono, You Know locations are definitely something to smile about!

Sushi King

There’s something about late-night dining that reigns supreme in my book. Food tastes so much better after 11 p.m., and being that Sushi King continues to serve its sushi specialties and other authentic Japanese favorites until 2 a.m. on most days (the restaurant closes at 10 p.m. Tuesdays), it has become my go-to hot spot for feasting late into the night.

Since opening its doors in 1992 at its South King Street location, Sushi King brings consistency to every dish. The establishment employs chefs who’ve gained culinary experience in Japan, and favorites of mine include Chirashi Deluxe, which features fresh maguro, hamachi, salmon, tako, cooked shrimp, salmon eggs, cooked mushroom and sweetened gourd exquisitely placed atop a bed of sushi rice; and anything soft shell crab. Shall I delve into just how much I adore the soft shell crab masterpieces at Sushi King? Yes, I believe I shall!

First, there’s Soft Shell Crab Salad ($14.50). This dynamite of salads presents a vegetable medley of lettuce, radish, kaiware sprouts, onions, carrots and tomato, but the star of this dish is the gigantic piece of soft shell crab — easy to eat and deep-fried gorgeousness. A sprinkle of sesame seeds complete the dish, and a side dressing flourishing with hints of ginger, soy, sesame and garlic is a nice accompaniment.

Then, soft shell crab connoisseurs will relish in one particular item that’s not on the menu, but available upon request — Soft Shell Crab Tempura.

Priced at $12.50, pieces of crispy, deep-fried zucchini, broccoli, carrot and eggplant tempura, along with a luscious piece of soft shell crab tempura adorn the plate; each morsel of goodness just waiting to be submerged into the sweet and savory dipping sauce and enjoyed. Don’t miss out on this Sushi King specialty.

And finally, I can’t get enough of the eatery’s oh, so famous Spider Roll ($12.50). This Sushi King original is easily a best-seller on the menu, and for good reason. This edible work of art is beautifully presented, and features an inside-out sushi roll comprised of soft shell crab, cucumber and avocado. The plate is glazed with a flavorful unagi sauce, and bits of kaiware sprouts, zesty ginger and wasabi add the finishing touches.

Sushi King
2700 S. King St.

Kobe Steakhouse & Sushi Bar

It’s showtime at Kobe Steakhouse & Sushi Bar, where skilled chefs, also known as culinary magicians, put on dazzling spectacles each night as they prepare ono meals of steak, chicken, seafood, veggies and more atop flat-top teppan grills situated at each table. Watch as Kobe’s chefs chop, slice and dice their way into diners’ hearts.

And while the interactive dining experience is one of the main draws at this family-friendly restaurant, that isn’t to discredit the slew of appetizers that serve as the prelude to every meal.

The splurge continues with soft shell crab, so it’s only fitting to awaken taste buds with Soft Shell Crab ($10) and Kobe’s Spider Roll ($13).

Spider Roll dedicates itself to fans of soft shell crab, and features the crisp and crunch of soft shell crab intertwined with creamy avocado and kaiware sprouts.

For those who take joy in simplicity, indulge in Soft Shell Crab ($10) without the fuss. Here, this deep-fried crustacean shines on its own, cut in half, and ready to be devoured. A shell cracker is definitely not needed for this tasty starter.

Kobe Steakhouse & Sushi Bar
1841 Ala Moana Blvd.

Asahi Grill

With a worldwide audience, Asahi Grill on Ward Avenue delivers both island and American classics to the masses, along with other Asian-inspired favorites.

Locals love the restaurant’s Famous Ox-tail Soup and Oxtail Ramen, along with the Asahi Breakfast, Steamed Fish Fillet and more. But, most importantly, what about soft shell crab? Well, of course! There’s no reason to get crabby, because Asahi Grill does it right with its offerings of Soft Shell Crab Don and Soft Shell Crab Salad.

A bed of fresh romaine lettuce makes up the foundation for Asahi Grill’s Soft Shell Crab Salad ($11.95). Slices of Japanese cucumber, avocado and tobiko add flair to the dish, while two pieces of soft shell crab bring new dimension. The homemade shoyu dressing is an added bonus.

For those who prefer a heartier helping, opt for Soft Shell Crab Don ($11.95). You are presented with a bowl of rice topped with baby soft shell crabs doused in a special sauce, and sweet egg and avocado segments.

So, the next time you think “delicious comfort food,” think Asahi Grill!

Asahi Grill
515 Ward Ave.

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