Crab Brain Misconceptions

phpcpwfuapm.jpgCrab eating is taken seriously here in Japan, crabs are a delicacy and nothing is wasted not even the brain. Winter is well upon us and now is the best time of year to tuck into the tasty crustacean. Restaurants throughout the country are serving them up in all manor of fashion, and hordes of tourists are descending upon seaside towns especially in Hokkaido to fill up on a whole variety of the crawlers. A top of the line crab can cost anywhere between 20,000 and 30,000 yen! If you’ve been ever sat down to a good crab meal, you may have come across a dish called Kani Miso.

Kani miso (カニみそ), is a grey/green coloured paste, and usually you’ll get a good-sized spoonful or two from a single crab. Ask a Japanese person what they think kani miso is and more often then not the word ‘nou miso’ (脳みそ) will come up (i.e. crab’s brain). However this is a common misconception.

The truth is far more horrific, the brain size of an average size crab is little more than that of a pea, and kani miso is whatever is left after all the white meat is taken out of the crab – a nasty looking concoction of internal organs such as livers and pancrease, intestines, their contents and just a little bit of the actual brain. Over tofu though it’s delicious!

Try it out this winter, and let us know what you think by leaving a comment!

13 thoughts on “Crab Brain Misconceptions”

  1. Kani miso! yum! especially with nice sake, definately hot (atsukan). It has to be good quality of course, and fresh. First time i tried it, here in Sydney i haaaaated it. >_

  2. I was never really much of a fan of crab miso, in fact I wasn’t really much of a fan of crabs, themselves (because it is such a pain in the arse to eat). It wasn’t until I came to Japan (I know this is ironic) that I sampled a Shanghai Hairy Crab and fell in love. The Shanghai Hairy Crabs are still small and hard to eat but the “miso” is sooo sweet you could eat it for dessert. Just like you said, Purple, it is sooo good over Tofu!
    I assume from the name that the crabs come from Shanghai but don’t really know. I wonder if it is even tastier there… But for me it is a delicacy that I’ve only experienced in Japan. Why is it that the Japanese are so informed of delicacies from so many different countries that we’ve never heard of in the states. We can definitely learn a thing or two!

  3. I haven’t ever caught crabs like fuckedgaijin but have tried kanimiso and hated it. Like shiokara and natto, just the texture and look of these things make me want to puke, so no thanks.
    Incidentally I did ask my wife what she thought kanimiso is and she said the expected: nomisou. She was shocked to hear otherwise as purple points out, but she does want to know just where this research comes from. (Her belief system now in tatters…)
    Personally I don’t care. I hate the stuff.

  4. If all that stuff in the crab really was brains, crabs would have to have the largest brain to body size ratio in the world… as far as I know humans hold that honour and crustations, well lets just say they ain’t that smart.

    Research provided by stippy.com

  5. Wow! Now that I think about it (brain size and such) it really makes sense; I was just as fooled by the word “miso” as everyone else.

    The question then is why other brains (i.e. human brains) are called nomiso. They don’t really look anything like miso to me.

    To Gourmet in Washington,

    Shanghai crabs are actually from a wealthy suburb of Suzhou called Changshu. It’s about 1 hour west of Shanghai. The only reason I know this is I had a friend from Changshu who was indignant about it. He said Changshu is also the birthplace of the dish beggar’s chicken. Just a bit of trivia which I have not independentaly verified – take it with a grain of salt.

  6. actually, Changshu is pretty close. There’s a lake around there called YangChengHu(Lake Yangcheng) which is where the best crabs originate. However, recent years the lake has been polluted and overfarmed to a point where most “Shanghai Crabs” now are brought there to soak for a day or two just to claim authenticity, even though most are brought in from places like Hunan. Many better quality crabs now are farmed in home-made pools in rural areas of Changsu and Wuxi, and are grown in clearer parts of Taihu(The Big Lake).

    It’s also called Shimizu-kani in Japan because it’s simply just a breed of freshwater crabs native to China. Most popularized by Jiangnan(Jiangsu and Zhejiang province + district of Shanghai combined) cuisine, thus the popular name Shanghai crab. My family has been selling crabs in our restaurant for the past 3 generations, so I know a little about these hairy and quite dirty delicacies(considering they’re never washed before cooked, the gills should never be eaten, and the eater’s hands should be wiped every time after touching the hairy pincers)

    Beggar’s Chicken(or mud baked chicken) is originally from around the area, with different variants in each city. It’s a famous dish in Huaiyang cuisine(Huainan/Yangzhou style) and Hangzhou cuisine, with the exception that the Hangzhou version is wrapped in a lotus leaf for the added aroma.

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