Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Maloney / Styling Nellie Ming Lee The season for hairy crab is almost over - you have a couple more weeks to enjoy the delicacy. Hairy crab is considered cooling on the body, which is why it's traditionally served with lots of ginger (it's in the vinegar dipping sauce and tea that's drunk after the meal) to balance the effects. Hairy crab with rice cakes When it comes to whole crabs - the ones with the shells on - I prefer to eat them at home, rather than in a restaurant; the setting is more relaxing, so you don't feel inhibited about rolling up your sleeves to get down and dirty. Although with more refined dishes, where the crab and roe are taken out of the shell, I'd rather pay someone else to do the work for me. Making steamed hairy crab is easy: the vendor will tell you how long to cook the creatures and also supply the dried perilla leaves (to steam with the crabs), fresh ginger, vinegar, dried plums and rice wine (you steep the plums in the warm wine, to make it more palatable, although if the wine is aged and of good quality, drink it straight). Stir-frying the crabs with rice cakes is also easy. I like to serve this dish with stir-fried dau miu (pea shoots), which are in season, too. Stir-fry the vegetables in a very hot wok with oil (or even better, rendered chicken fat), some salt and a splash of chicken stock. The rice cakes used for this dish are not the puffed-rice health food of the same name. Asian rice cakes (they're also used in Korea) - also known as neen goh - are sold in the refrigerated section of supermarkets and come in flat discs, as well as round sticks. Most instructions for preparing them will advise soaking them in warm water until pliable, but if you do that for this recipe, they'll be too soft by the time the crab is ready. Soak them for a couple of hours and, as they cook, they'll absorb the sauce and become tender. This dish, served with stir-fried vegetables, should be enough for two average eaters. If you have a hearty appetite, add more rice cakes (and increase the seasonings proportionately). 4 hairy crabs, about 200 grams each 300 grams rice cakes, soaked in warm water for about two hours 25 grams fresh ginger 1 negi (known in Cantonese as dai chong; it looks like a large spring onion or a small leek), white and pale green part only 4-6 spring onions 25 grams kecap manis (dark, thick sweet soy sauce) 25ml soy sauce, or to taste 15ml rice wine 10ml Shanghainese brown vinegar 5 grams granulated sugar ½ tsp fine sea salt, or to taste About 250ml boiling water, or as needed Cornstarch, as needed Cooking oil, as needed While the crabs are bound, scrub them under cold running water. Working with one crab at a time, unfasten the bindings just enough so the legs and claws are loosely tied, but there's nothing across the belly. Put the crab on its back and with a swift blow, use a sharp cleaver to cut it into two pieces between the eyes and down the middle of its body. Kill the other crabs the same way and pull off the "apron" from the base of the bellies. Give the crabs a quick rinse under running water, taking care not to wash away any of the roe, then pat them dry with paper towels. Slice the ginger about 3mm thick, then trim off the skin. Lay the slices on a cutting board and cut them into 2mm thick pieces. Trim off and discard the root end of the negi, then slice it on the diagonal into 5mm pieces. Cut the spring onions into 3cm long pieces. Mix the kecap manis with the soy sauce, rice wine, brown vinegar, sugar, salt and about 50ml of boiling water, then stir to dissolve. Drain the rice cakes. Heat a wok until very hot, then add cooking oil to the depth of about 4cm. Spoon some cornstarch into a bowl. Dredge the cut ends of the crabs into the cornstarch then carefully place them, cut-side down, into the wok; do this in batches (two or three pieces at a time). Leave the crab pieces to fry for about a minute, or until the cornstarch is softly set, then briefly stir-fry them until the shells turn red. Take the pieces from the wok and drain on paper towels while frying the remaining crabs the same way. Pour out the oil then wash the wok. Heat the wok over a high flame then add about 45ml of cooking oil. Add the ginger and negi and stir-fry briefly, then mix in the rice cakes and stir to coat with the hot oil. Thoroughly mix in the kecap manis/soy sauce mixture, then add the crab pieces and about 50ml of boiling water. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and cover the wok with the lid. Simmer, stirring often, for about five minutes, and add more boiling water as needed so the rice cakes don't stick to the wok. Taste the sauce for seasoning and correct, if necessary. Continue to cook for five more minutes in the covered wok, stirring often and adding more water, as needed. The rice cakes should be tender and moist, and the sauce thick and sticky. When the crab is ready, stir in the spring onion, then scoop the ingredients into a serving dish. Serve with stir-fried pea shoots.