Fishing for crabs: Venice's culinary Moeche delicacy

Fri May 27, 2016 9:24am EDT
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By Alessandro Bianchi

VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - For a few days every spring and autumn, the lagoon of canal-laced Venice yields a very particular kind of catch and culinary treat.

"Moleche" -- or "moeche" as they called in the Venetian dialect -- are young crabs that have shed their baby shells and have yet to grow their adult ones. The renewal process takes only a few hours: a small window during which the Venice Lagoon anglers cast their nets.

The crabs' soft exterior hardens quickly if the crabs aren't fished right away. Those that are scooped up before their shedding are kept in deep vats of seawater until their transformation takes place.

Click for a Reuters photo essay on the crabs.

Once at the fish market and on trattoria tables, the "moeche" do not come cheap. They sell on average for 50 euros - 80 euros  ($55-89) per kilogram. Venetian chefs prefer to serve the crabs fried in a flour batter and boiling oil.

"It has the typical sweetness of a crab, combined with a sapid, savory flavor due to the saltiness of the lagoon waters," said Francesco Agopyan, owner of the Antiche Carampane.

"It is a very popular dish, especially among Venetians but also by others. It's a special dish."

The moeche crabs are more than a deliciously moist culinary tradition of Italy's lagoon city. Historians say they pervade Venice's artistic tradition as well.   Continued...

A bas-relief of the Lion of St. Mark is seen over a door at the Venice lagoon, Italy, April 23, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi