Alaskan King Crab

Photo Credit: Sourced from Wikimedia Commons

There has been a constant refrain in my head the last while, “Alaskan king crab season is nearly here. Alaskan king crab season is nearly here.” Fortunately, for those of you, like me, who love this spiny sweet crustacean, cooked in all sorts of ways, the season has finally begun! So, gather together your nearest and dearest, and organize a dinner pronto at one of many restaurants in Richmond serving Alaskan king crab.

For the uninitiated, Alaskan king crab is prized due to its sweetly succulent flavour and the short duration of its season. Around March every year, we on the west coast get access to the live Alaskan catch at lower than usual prices. For various reasons (eg most of it is sold to Asia), the amount available is limited and the season of price dips is sometimes only a few weeks long, depending on what’s released. Prices have also been steadily rising over the years due to increased demand and lowered supply; expect this year to pay $37-$60 per pound. It definitely is on the pricey side but I assure you that it’s totally worth it.

At one point, the Lower Mainland was only selling an unremarkable frozen product but the clamour of local diners soon caused pioneer Sun Sui Wah to begin selling fresh Alaskan king crab. It didn’t take long for other restaurants to take notice and now there are a plethora of places to choose from.

Alaskan king crab is particularly exciting because any dinner involving it feels like a special occasion. Make no mistake. The crab is the main attraction, in an elaborate multi-course enfolding of deliciousness that uses every morsel of meat and drop of juice. The standard practice is to call your chosen restaurant ahead of time and let them know about your crab feast. Once you get there, they should present you with your own writhing, spiky beauty before they whisk it away to do their culinary magic on it. Bigger (around 10 pounds) is really better if you want more meat.

The majority of establishments will serve the crab two ways, with potentially, a third or fourth course added if you pay extra. The first way is the simplest but the best means of appreciating the delicate and succulent flavour of the crab. After a brief wait at your table, trying to make small talk with the other guests but really only thinking of the crab, you’ll be rewarded with classic steamed crab legs, usually split open for easy access and slathered with minced garlic.

King Crab

Photo Credit: Ethan Adeland

Silence will descend over the table, save for the sound of satisfied eating. The thing with crab is that being given some just makes you want more. The next course is deep fried crab knuckles with your choice of seasoning (eg garlic, ginger, green onion, chili salt, salted egg yolk sauce). This course adds a whole other textural element with the crispness from the deep-frying. Prepare to fight with other guests for the last knuckle on the plate.

King crab8

Photo Credit: Lindsay Anderson

Finally, the third course tends to be some version of crab fried or baked rice, often cooked and/or plated in the head. This dish uses up the remainder of the crab, namely the tomalley (organs of the crab) for added richness. Some places add extra seafood, or do a noodle dish instead for this last course.

King Crab2

Photo Credit: Ethan Adeland

Talk to the restaurant about what’s possible and they should be able to dream up the perfect menu for you. Some chefs also get super inventive at this time of year and will come up with elaborate creations to wow your palate even more.

Prices can vary significantly, from restaurant to restaurant, depending on their distributor’s deals, the grade of Alaskan king crab they’re using, and the level of service and calibre of cooking you’ll be receiving. Make sure that you’re also being offered Alaskan king crab and not Russian.

Here is a list of some of the restaurants that serve king crab. Make sure to call ahead to check for availability and the market price for the day, which will fluctuate! Some rates per pound may drop substantially once the restaurants get access to more reasonably priced catch:

Empire Seafood Restaurant (200-5951 No. 3 Road)

  • $58.80 per pound
  • $10-15 extra for a second course

Excelsior Restaurant (6-6340 No. 3 Road)

  • $37 per pound (includes four courses – two steamed, one pan fried, and one rice course)

Fisherman’s Terrace Seafood Restaurant (4151 Hazelbridge Way)

  • $53.80 per pound (two courses included)
  • $15 extra for a third course

Golden Paramount Seafood Restaurant (8071 Park Road)

  • $50 per pound (includes two courses)
  • $25 extra for a third course

The Jade Seafood Restaurant (8511 Alexandra Road)

  • $58 per pound
  • $10 for a second course

Neptune Seafood Restaurant (110-8171 Ackroyd Road)

  • $29.98 per pound
  • $12.98 extra for a second course
  • $19.80 extra for a third rice course

Red Star Seafood Restaurant (2200-8181 Cambie Road)

  • $29.80 per pound
  • $10 extra for a second course

Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant (150-8888 River Road)

  • $58.80 per pound (includes two courses)

Shiang Garden Restaurant (4540 No. 3 Road)

  • $38 per pound
  • $10 extra for a second course
  • $30 extra for a third rice course

Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant (4920 No. 3 Road, Richmond)

  • $38.80 per pound (includes two courses)
  • $16 extra for a rice course; $10 extra for a noodle course

Vivacity Restaurant (110-8351 Alexandra Road)

  • $32.90 per pound (includes two courses)
  • $15 extra for a rice course

There are also two other Alaskan king crab options if you want to deviate from Cantonese cooking. Steveston Seafood House (3951 Moncton Street) serves a pound of steamed legs with garlic butter ($40) for those unable to organize a big group for dinner.

Steveston seafood

Photo Credit: Lindsay Anderson

The Crab King (3540 Bayview Street), also in Steveston, has a variety of different cooking and flavour options, including lemongrass Thai green curry, black peppercorn, black bean, and salted duck egg yolk with butter and roasted garlic. Call a day ahead to book your crab (roughly $40-45 per pound).

Crab King

Photo Credit: Lindsay Anderson

Meanwhile, prices at the supermarkets are currently at $38 per pound (New Chiu Yeung Seafood – 8191 Westminster Highway) or $40 per pound (Osaka – Yaohan Centre, 1000-3700 No. 3 Road). Eating out does make sense since, for roughly the same price, the restaurant will be cooking the crab for you. And believe me, after you’ve devoured your meal and your fingers are sticky from garlic and crab juice, you’ll be counting down the days until your next Alaskan king crab dinner.