Oyster Crabs: Yummmm Or Yecccch?

Alert — and hungry — “06880” reader Andy Yemma writes:

We like to eat fresh oysters, especially in summer, and get them from a variety of spots. Last Sunday we stopped in at Westfair Fish & Chips, across from Stop & Shop. They were doing great business selling delicious fried oysters, clams, oysters on the half shell, lobster rolls, fries, etc. I bought a dozen nice-sized blue points for $12.

Later that evening while shucking them I came across something new. I’ve shucked a lot of oysters but had never seen this. And you’ll never see it in a restaurant.

It was a pea-sized object of some kind, I thought — maybe the beginnings of a pearl. I scraped it off into the trash, and went on to the next oyster. Hmm, another one of these tiny things. I took out my reading specs for a better look.

Damn if it wasn’t looking back at me! It was a tiny crab with a tiny crab face, pincers — the works.

I showed it to my wife. She acted like she’d seen a mouse.

An oyster crab -- though not Andy Yemma's. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

An oyster crab — though not Andy Yemma’s. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

I did what any alert “06880” reader would do: I googled “Oysters with tiny crabs inside.” Damn if they don’t have a Wikipedia entry: “The oyster crab, Zaops ostreus, is a small, whitish or translucent crab in the family Pinnotheridae. Found specifically in oysters, it is an edible sea food delicacy.”

Edible? Apparently they were well received by the food critics of the New York Times – about 125 years ago! The Oyster Crab Salad: “A dish that is as pleasing to the eye as to the palate.” Well, that was in the heyday of New York Harbor’s oyster business (before pollution killed most of them off).

I found oyster crabs in 3 more shells. Didn’t have the courage to nibble them. As far as pleasing to the eye, not so much. But neither are oysters for that matter.

We ate our dozen oysters with a tiny bit of trepidation. They were delicious as usual. And no repercussions. I kind of wished I’d saved the buggers.

Next time.

5 responses to “Oyster Crabs: Yummmm Or Yecccch?

  1. The Oyster Bar GCT used to serve them as a side dish. Good fried or sauteed. I love them-pure keratin.

  2. Jamie Walsh

    Bonus seafood grub!!

  3. Maura Cotter

    We had exactly the same experience this holiday weekend!! Happy Fourth 06880!!! God Bless America!

  4. Lynn Jeffery

    A foodie’s funny tale for you.., and an old Westport convenient seafood resource we forgot!

    Sent from my iPhone


  5. It is funny that most Americans view “pea crabs” with horror and disdain while Europeans relish them as a tiny treat. They taste like tiny “shed crabs” – with a thin shell that hardly crunches. Not for everyone to be sure, but nothing to fear, and quite tasty. Interesting that folks who are brave enough to try an oyster are often afraid to try a pea crab. We see them often in western Long Island Sound oysters and some Chesapeake Bay growing areas as well.