There’s something uniquely satisfying about eating a whole creature. That quality, in addition to their unique sweet and savory flavor and toothsome texture, is a large part of the broad appeal of soft-shell crabs. Right now they are very much in season and popping up on menus all over Houston.
Here are five of our favorite dishes featuring this entirely edible crustacean:
In the “crab daddy” bao, a lightly fried soft-shell crab atop a bed of Asian slaw is nestled in Fat Bao’s signature spongy steamed bun. The fried claws won’t pinch your tongue, but the same can’t be said for the drizzle of spicy mayonnaise. For a double portion that won’t cost you double the dollars, visit between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays for the $10 lunch special: two bao, a drink, and chips or a side salad.
One reason to visit the Galleria: E-Tao. Go to feast on its soft-shell crab fried rice. It’s chock-full of briny crustacean bits and boasts alternating bites of crunch from the crabs and (surprise) pine nuts! And while you’re there, order some of E-Tao’s soup dumplings, which aren’t bad either.
Soft-shell crab entrees in some form are a staple on State of Grace’s brunch and dinner menus, though restless creativity on the part of the chefs means the exact dishes change regularly. Most recent manifestations include soft-shell crab tacos drizzled with mayonnaise that's infused with crab boil spices, and a panko-crusted soft-shell crab coupled with coriander cream and a zesty yuzu kosho vinaigrette.
For shellfish lovers, Vinh Hoa might possibly be the happiest place on earth. Not only does this Chinatown institution offer amazing lobster with ginger and scallions, clams in black bean sauce, and walnut shrimp, they also vend ginormous platters of cua lot chien bo, heavily battered chunks of soft shell crab tossed in butter. As a cute touch, this fatty bomb of crab flesh is served with lettuce and tomato.
At The Cajun Stop, you can enjoy a pair of fried over-sized soft-shell crabs dressed in a garlic butter with fries for just around $15. If you’re a rich man or woman, spring for the extra-large (32-inch) soft-shell crab po'boy ($45), which is loaded with pickles, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and crispy crabbies. It also doubles as a baseball bat. Pro-tip: If you elect to take out, stop by the restaurant in person to place your order. Call up during soft-shell crab and crawfish season, and you may find yourself on hold for a minute.