Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chinese Smog & Hairy Crabs

Chinese pollution? Best in the world, no doubt about it! Actually, the smog in Shenzhen today isn't too bad as a breeze has kicked-in to move the air around. However, taking just a short foray outside yesterday afternoon meant that I came back with my eyes already starting to sting. Clearly, the Olympics brought only the slightest of pauses in the gradual poisoning of the atmosphere in key industrial centres in China.

And it's fair to say that Shenzhen is one of those key industrial cities. Its location - right over the water from Hong Kong - was the basic ingredient that allowed rapid economic growth to develophere , with Shenzhen benefiting greatly from the prodigious influx of foreign money into the area from the 1970s onwards. Indeed, Wikipedia reports that Shenzhen is reputed to be the fastest growing city in the world, and looking out of the hotel window it's a claim that's easy to believe.

However, according to the hotel at least, all of the economic prowess has to take second place to the culinary allure of the local seasonal delicacy, hairy crabs. Now personally, I'm not that fond of crabs be they of the hirsute or clean-shaven variety so I cannot comment one way or the other on how they taste. But make no mistake, these things are definitely a big deal down here and, perhaps unsurprisingly, suffer the same fate as many consumer (literally) items that are popular and pricey: they get faked.

To help combat this outrage, real hairy crabs can have ID rings attached or even get their shells laser engraved in order to try and prove their authenticity. Of course, such things are easy to fake, which is precisely what apparently happens. Cunningly enough, unscrupulous vendors can also dip crabs from other locations into the specific lake they are supposed to come from and voila, the price just jumped ten-fold or more, and it's a deception that's hard to prove unless you catch them red-handed (the criminals, not the crabs).

Still, if you manage to find the genuine article then it seems there is still one hazard yet to overcome: the damned things might poison you just as surely as the local smog will. There was a scandal with Taiwan a couple of years ago around crabs reported to be loaded with a known carcinogen being exported their way.

But perhaps that's just what makes them hairy?

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