China and the US share a craze over crawfish

China 24

Boiled crawfish lie on display at Kjean’s Safood in New Orleans, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. The wet winter weather in south Louisiana could be making for a bountiful crawfish season. The harvest is just getting started and peaks into the spring. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Cambridge is a picturesque town nestled on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, with about 12,000 residents. But once a year, it draws a thousand visitors, and it’s all because of a little critter that’s the main attraction: crawfish.

CGTN’s Frances Kuo has more on why these crustaceans are all the rage.

“It’s become kind of a cult, people drive from all over,” said chef Patrick Fanning. “Crawfish are small, but they pack quite a punch.”

The Right Way to Eat Crawfish

Step 1: Twist the head

Step 2: Suck out its juices

Step 3: Pinch the end of the tail

Step 4: Slowly push the meat out

Step 5: Eat and enjoy!

It’s all part of the 8th Annual Crawfish Boil. Organizers brought in nearly 140 kilograms (309 pounds) of it from New Orleans. Within the first hour, they were practically gone.

“It’s more than just eating the crawfish, it’s the entire experience,” explains organizer Keith Graffius.

“It’s the fun atmosphere, the communal eating, the camaraderie,” said Fanning.

That’s also how China sees it.

Last year, crawfish, or “little lobster” as it’s called in China, was the most popular dish ordered on consumer app Meituan-Dianping.

Like in Cambridge, they’re often enjoyed in social settings at sidewalk snack booths.

Meituan also reports that the crawfish market is worth more than $14 billion, which is about 4-percent of the total Chinese food service market.

A woman carrying a mop on her shoulder walks past a restaurant serving crayfish in Beijing, China, Wednesday, July 5, 2017. The crayfish is popular across China often serve spicy hot over cold beer. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

China is the world’s largest producer of crawfish, accounting for more than 70-percent of the world’s total. Much of it comes from Qiangjiang in Hubei Province, which is then exported around the world.

“If you go to a lot of restaurants, a lot of the frozen crawfish that they get are imported from China,” said Graffius. “We have a big import-export business when it comes to China.”

To be clear, seafood could never be confused with statesmanship. But any step towards diplomacy, however small, is worth savoring.

“With everything going on in the world, it’s nice to know that crawfish can bring people together,” said Graffius.

Want to learn how to cook crayfish dishes from China and the U.S.?

In this special edition of the Digital Hub, CGTN’s Audrey Siek and Jim Spellman teamed up for a crayfish cook off, comparing Chinese versus American recipes.

Want more insight into this little critter’s popularity in the U.S. and China?

So what’s led to the crayfish following that’s bridging cultures from the fish markets of Beijing to the U.S. Chesapeake Bay? CGTN’s Audrey Siek and Jim Spellman team up again to explain in this digital short.