This is the season to enjoy the best of Chongming
Boasting picturesque scenery and seasonal delicacies, Chongming Island is an ideal weekend getaway for Shanghai foodies. With golden autumn upon us, Chongming has arranged for a host of local flavors that would make any gourmet proud. Here’s what you should be looking for this season.
Chongming freshwater crab
Once considered cheap food because they were small and bony, Chongming crabs are making a comeback thanks to scientific breeding. The indigenous crustacean is bigger, meatier and with more roe and compares favorably with the popular hairy crab from the Yangtze Delta region. The two are close relatives and look similar.
Lying at the mouth of the Yangtze River, Chongming is the breeding ground of hairy crabs and other aquatic animals because of abundance of good water and rich food resources. Thanks to the special point where fresh water and salty sea water meets, the crab tastes a little salty and does not need to be enjoyed with sauces. With their tasty roe and fragrant flesh, these delicious crustaceans are a must-have in autumn.
Chongming Island has a long history of breeding hairy crabs, and many of the island’s specialty dishes include crab meat. This year, the local crab breeding area amounts to 8,000 hectares, and is capable of yielding a total of 800 tons of crab.
“Chongming hairy crab used to be nicknamed wuxiaoxie — or dark small crab. Most male crabs used to weigh less than 150 grams, while females were less than 100 grams. But things are different this year,” said Huang Chun, president of Shanghai River Crab Industry Association.
“With technological innovation and scientific cultivation, Chongming freshwater male crabs can now weigh 250 grams. Some males even weigh 300 grams. The females can weigh about 200 grams,” Huang said.
Huang said that there are three key factors for raising quality crabs: the environment, the eggs and the breeding methods. Chongming, with its clean water and relatively unpolluted aquaculture, provides breeders with conditions similar to the hairy crab’s natural environment.
Chongming freshwater crabs are bred with eggs from crabs caught at the mouth of the Yangtze River. Farmers and breeders then raise their crabs in clean water with high-quality feed.
Meanwhile, a crab summit was held on October 26, focusing on the future of crab breeding technology, crab culture and environmental protection. Many professionals in this area joined the meeting.
A lot of crab farms can be found on the island. Among them is Baodao Crab Farm in Luhua Town, which has a showroom to illustrate the behavior of Chongming crab, its breeding and catching. The farm also provides accommodation to visitors and teaches them to fish crabs. More importantly, this is the place for a hearty feast of crabs.
Walking under tangerine trees laden with fragrant and ripening fruits is a sheer delight for urban dwellers. Tangerine season is usually from October to December. This is the best time to admire these delightful trees and enjoy their refreshing fruit.
Chongming started growing large-scale tangerine nearly 30 years ago and now has 4,267 hectares of fields, accounting for over 80 percent of Shanghai’s tangerine growing area.
Average annual output from these fields totals about 110,000 tons, official data show. Through January, those in downtown Shanghai can sample Chongming tangerines at stalls set up at Yangpu, Zhongshan, Luxun, Heping and Changfeng parks and at Shanghai Botanical Garden.
Chongming tangerines have won numerous awards and accolades over the years, thanks to their delicious taste and eco-friendly growing practices. With thin peels and juicy flesh, Chongming tangerines are both delicious and a good source of vitamin C, folate and beta-carotene.
Changxing Island is one of the main producers of Chongming tangerines. A tangerine festival is now underway in the town. Visitors are welcome to come and admire the tangerine blossoms, and even pick a few tangerines themselves. You can also go cycling in the town and around a reservoir and pick tangerines to eat. You can also learn to make a tangerine lamp.
Chongming is famous for its high-quality hybrid rice. The new brand “Chongming Rice” is prized for its good taste and smell. This rice is also grown with eco-friendly methods. The paddies where it is grown are all weeded by hand. Ducks, frogs and solar-powered bug-zappers are also used for pest control. You can sample some of Chongming’s best hybrid rice varieties at the Freshwater Crab, Tangerine and Rice Carnival on the island. They are also available online and at supermarkets.
If you go:
By driving: Changjiang Tunnel-Bridge Expressway — Chenhai Road — Panlong Road — Beiyan Road or Changjiang Tunnel-Bridge Expressway — Chenhai Road — Sanhua Road
By bus: Shenchong No. 3 Line starts from Wenshui Road in Puxi’s Zhabei District. Shenchong No. 6 Line starts from Jufeng Road in Pudong. The terminal station is South Gate Pier.
By ferry: Take Metro Line 3 to Baoyang Road Pier for the ferry — every half an hour from 6:30am to 5:30pm.