John Gun Pin’s Raw, Salted Crab


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Harley Spiller, best known for his collections (among them, a trove of over 10,000 international Chinese takeout menus), has penned a lovely essay about his friend, the former Marine mess cook John Gun Pin and his ha cha, a raw, salted crab served with vinegar and sugar.

Here’s a taste:

Our no-fuss hero was born on the island of Donghai in mainland China’s Zhoushan Archipelago. He cut his eye teeth on Ningbo-style eats, an important facet of zhejiang, or Shanghai food, one of the eight cuisines of the vast Chinese cookhouse. Ningbo cooking allows natural flavor to predominate and is characteristically salty and fragrant. Locals prize soft textured seafood dishes like braised eel or fried yellow croaker, and preserved snacks that help stretch the abundant white rice, like ni law, salted molting snails with shells as small and translucent as pinky nails

It’s a great read, and includes details on how John Gun Pin prepared his ha cha–one with crab bodies and shells minced together, and the other with the cracked but intact claws. Head over to the AAWW’s The Margins for the rest.