Crayfishes popularity in China shared around the world

Updated 2018-01-16 17:21:01

China's favorite dish in 2017 was crayfish, said a food consumption report by the China Cuisine Association (CCA).

The report said sales revenue in China's catering industry surpassed 3.9 trillion yuan (607 billion U.S. dollars) last year.

It said savory flavors were most popular among Chinese consumers in 2017, as they were favored by 23.3 percent. The spicy food ranked second, with 17.2 percent.

Crayfish, or "little lobster" in Chinese, was the most popular dish, based on a list of the top 10 most-ordered dishes on Chinese consumer app Meituan-Dianping.

Crayfish appears to satisfy the culture of Yexiao, a late night meal commonly referred to as 'supper' in the West while the dish is believed to help improve social interaction, as customers need to wear gloves to peel so as to enjoy the freshwater delicacy.

Other popular dishes that also made the list include steak, roast duck, sushi, pickled fish, Chaoshan beef hot pot, rice noodles, ramen, Spicy Incense Pot and fried chicken.

Crazy for China's crayfish

Crayfish were first brought to east China's Jiangsu Province by a Japanese merchant in the 1920s. According to the Global Times, they appeared in the Jianghan Plain, where Qianjiang is located, about 30 years ago.

They weren't always a welcome addition to the ecosystem, especially for local farmers.

"They pinched off rice seedlings in the paddy fields, and made tunnels in ridges that caused water loss," said Liu Zhuquan from Baowan Village in Qianjiang.

In the beginning, crayfish were little more than a nuisance for the rice farmers of eastern and central China, but now the invasive species has become big business for one city.

China is the world's largest producer of crayfish, with annual output accounting for over 70 percent of the world's total.

Around 80 percent of crayfish produced in Qianjiang were exported to Europe and the United States as pre-cooked food products.

Oddly enough, one of the largest U.S. consumer's of China's crayfish is the state of Louisiana where crayfish originally came from.

Known in China as crayfish, they are called crawfish in Louisiana. Same freshwater delight just in a different tone in the name.

Crayfish same, same but different?

The Acadians arrived in Louisiana after the Great Expulsion in 1755. Hailing from the Canadian Maritime provinces, seafood had already been a staple of their diet. Upon arriving in Louisiana, the Acadians settled along the bayous of New Orleans and neighboring communities, where crayfish were abundant in the slow-moving water.

According to the NewOrleans.me historical website, since the Acadians were familiar with lobster and had previous fishing experience their contact with local Native Americans, led to the introduction of crayfish into the Acadian diet. And when the Acadians became the Cajuns, the tradition of eating crayfish continued, leading to the popular methods of consuming the crustaceans today. A tradition still carried out today in a variety of dishes served up in New Orleans a city world-renowned for its cuisine.

From late February to early June, one of New Orleans' most beloved native foods, crayfish, is in season, and abundant. With this comes the annual tradition of crayfish boils. This is when friends and family join together outdoors around newspaper-covered tables, peeling and eating crayfish. Even though the crayfish boil wasn't always as popular as it is today, eating crayfish in Louisiana dates all the way back to pre-colonial times, according to NewOrleans.me website.

While crayfish dishes in China and New Orleans each manifest distinct local flavors both are steeped in savory spices that are pleasing to palates around the world.

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