I blogged about Alaskan King Crab (AKC) around this time last year, but today I felt inclined to write a little more about this topic, simply because I had such as Yowza! Moment two days ago. Tuesday’s dinner was no doubt my favorite meal of the year thus far and year after year, I look forward to our annual AKC feast.
After questioning many commercial fisherman and fish purveyors/distributors, watching endless episodes of the Deadliest Catch and reading Alexandra Gill’s recent article in the Globe and Mail, I now feel I understand the “Vancouver AKC Season.” Let me try to sum this up for you in my wordy, non-eloquent kinda way.
AKC season starts in October; fisherman are issued quotas which they can fill at any point during the season. Most crab fisherman choose to fish early in the season (October/November) because the weather is usually calmer and the Bering Sea is a little less aggressive and a little more “Ber-able.” During these fall months, the precarious task of catching AKC is a little easier and a little less dangerous. When the boats go out to fish, their goal is to fill their tanks with live and healthy AKC as quickly as possible. It only makes sense, since every minute they are out fishing, fuel costs and expenses are racking up. When they have a full boat or decide to unload, the boats sell their crab at the daily market price and offload all their live AKC at a seafood company’s processing ship/facility. Though the market value of AKC is a factor affecting a fisherman’s decision on when to fish, most AKC fisherman fish early in the season. The season closes in mid-January and after that point, no more AKC can be harvested until the following season. In fact, many AKC fisherman start fishing opilio crab in January, before the AKC season ends.
So why are we “AKC crazy” here in Vancouver in March? Well, because you asked so nicely… When the seafood companies buy the live crabs from the fishermen, some of the crab gets processed and sold in many different ways. Most of us are familiar with beautiful frozen AKC legs; I know for my family, when my brother and I were growing up, it was a huge treat, when on occasion, our wonderful Mom would cook us a feast of AKC legs and thick T-Bone steaks for dinner. AKC surf and turf was no doubt one of my favorite meals as a kid and that taste for AKC has stuck with me all of my life. To get back on track, though a lot of AKC gets processed, a good portion of the catch is kept live in tanks for the live market. Most of the live crab is sold to Asian distributors at super premium prices, where demand for live seafood is so high. The reason we are feasting on AKC in Vancouver every year can be attributed to the owners of Sun Sui Wah, the legendary Vancouver Chinese restaurant empire. Back in the mid-80’s, they were the first to establish connections with AKC wholesalers, mainly to satisfy the appetite of their growing Hong Kong clientele. Their pioneering spirit has grown into something much bigger and considerably more competitive, where most decent Chinese restaurants in Vancouver partake in this annual opportunity-buy and feature AKC at this time of year. Local distributors of AKC, buy whatever is still available in the live market and we as consumers are the lucky beneficiaries of this unique situation. Because of Vancouver’s massive Asian population and its proximity to Alaska, we are the only city that enjoys this “AKC March Madness phenomenon.” Does this AKC back- story clear everything up? I don’t know about you, but I feel much better, now that I have a better understanding of our AKC season.
On Tuesday evening, “Monk,” “Jazzy,” “Lexicon,” “The Godfather,” “Hair by Lena,” “The Lingerie Photographer” and I enjoyed a lovely AKC feast at Yan’s Garden. [9948 Lougheed Hwy, Burnaby, (604) 421-8823] It’s our local go-to Chinese restaurant, 8.3 minutes from our homestead and exceptionally consistent in every way. We always receive excellent service and delicious food; prices are extremely fair and we host all of our Chinese banquets there. During “AKC March Madness,” we only eat AKC once or twice a year in a Chinese restaurant, which usually results in one of my favorite meals of the year and it keeps it pretty special in my books. I’ve been very fortunate that every year that we’ve enjoyed this feast, each time the first course comes out, I take a bite, I close my eyes and internally scream Yowza! The AKC flesh is just so delicious, so fresh, so succulent and so pure in flavor and for me, there are few foods that make me this happy.
Tuesday’s meal was a 10.5 pound AKC prepared in three courses; steamed legs with garlic, fried knuckle with jalapeno, garlic and a spicy pepper salt and a fried rice baked in the crab’s shell, enriched with extra seafood and crab brains. If that wasn’t enough, we also had two courses of Peking duck; first course of crispy duck skin wrapped in Mandarin pancakes and the second course of the duck meat stir fry lettuce wraps. For dessert, we had a baked tapioca pudding which is our absolute favorite Chinese restaurant dessert. Yowza! Yowza! Yowza! What a delicious meal; great company, fantastic food and so satisfying in so many ways.
If you haven’t tried live AKC at a Chinese restaurant during our “AKC March Madness,” I suggest you “give it a go.” It’ll make you scream Yowza! and you can thank me later.
Until my next Yowza! moment, peace be unto you.