Crab Species 1: Snow Crab/Sawagani (amended & expanded)

Snow Crabs, or Zuwagani in Japanese are very popular not only in Japan, but also in Russia, Canada and many other countries.

In Japan, they are also known under the following names: Matsubagani, Echizengani and Yoshigani.
The females are also called Seikogani, Megani or Koubakogani.
They are caught mainly in Autumn and Winter.
Their number have decreased in the Japan seas down to a yearly catch of 5,000 tonnes while 60,000 tonnes are imported from Russia and Canada.


(Male Snow Crab)


(Female snow Crab)

Male and female snow crabs are equally succulent, but the males contain more flesh and are accordingly more expensive.

The “thorns” of a male snow crab are bigger.

The “teeth” of a male snow crab are triangular in a seesaw shape.
The female “teeth” are in a straight line.

The underbelly of a female snow crabis flatish.


When buying a female (10 tmes as cheap) snow crab, choose a specimen with as few eggs as possible. Above speciman just has too many!


A female snow crab should contain plenty of succulent orange egg sacs (the eggs not yet “born”). Otherwise, there is very little reason to buy any!

Crabs can be eaten in many ways, even raw, but my favourites are on sushi!


Male Snow crab leg Sushi Nigiri and Female snow crab Sushi Nigiri and its egg sacs!

Suwagani/Snow Crab legs, when lightly boiled can make for beautiful sushi nigiri.

Cheaper varieties can still make fr some remarkable gunkan sushi combining the boiled white flesh and “miso”/brains!

If the Japanese can get their hands on the whole crab, will simply boil it and eat the meat directly out of the shell with a sweet vinegar dressing.
As for the “miso”/brains they will be served in the shell heated again with a big helping of Japanese sake!

Now, live snow crabs make for extravagant sashimi!

The same can savoured in shabu-shabu!

Italian restaurants in Japan regularly serve it in pasta!

Warren Bobrow, Bread + Butter, Zoy Zhang, Hungry Neko, Think Twice, Frank Fariello, Mangantayon, Hapabento, Elinluv Tidbit Corner, Tokyo Terrace, Maison de Christina, Chrys Niles,Lexi, Culinary Musings, Wheeling Gourmet, Social Culinaire, Sushi Nomads, Cook, Eat & Share, Gourmet Fury, 5 Star Foodie

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7 thoughts on “Crab Species 1: Snow Crab/Sawagani (amended & expanded)”

  1. I’ve never seen this variety of crabs. Nice photos and they look delicious. I’d eat more crabs if there were someone else to crack their shells and flake their meat off for me.

    By the way, I’ve pased on the Honesty Scrap badge/award your way. Pls. “claim” the badge from my site:

    And no, I am not spamming you just in case that crosses your mind. : )


  2. I am pretty sure it was a Japanese restaurant/Sushi, and they displayed the tiny crabs in a fish bowl. They were brought to the table alive and you at them like sushi, raw, but still alive? It was quite a few years ago, and my husband would like to try it again. Thank you, I also am publishing more food poetry in the past six months, as others. On a food radio show now.

    I bet Warren will enjoy coming to Japan and meeting you two. I am still in contact with the Japanese importer of the Kinai fish they are promoting over here. So much fun learning it all!

    Chef E


    1. Dear Elizabeth!
      You might have to check with the Japanese chef.
      They are not found in our region, and they have to be sea crabs as river crabs cannot be eaten raw (we have them here in Shizuoka).
      All my Japanese friends told me they must come form the other side of Japan!
      Good to hear you are publishing more poetry and are active on the radio!
      If warren and friends can manage to come to Japan, you can expect a lot of writing!LOL


  3. Robert, Long time no see!

    I was excited to see you on a fellow NJ writers site today! Warren Bobrow, and your write up was excellent!

    Question: Do you know what the tiny little crabs are that the Japanese eat while they are alive? They tickle going down? We had them in NYC years ago, and I am looking for info on them… barely an inch in size…


    Chef E


    1. Dear Elizabeth!
      I noticed they published your poem!
      Do you mean small shrimps?
      As for crabs you have me lost!
      Could you please investigate? It might Korean as they eat a lot of seafood alive, too!


      1. Dear Liz!
        I just had to re-write this reply completely as I think I finally found what you are talking about!
        There two kinds of “River Crabs”.
        The real one which exclusively lives in rivers cannot be eaten raw.
        The one you are taling about in Mozuku Gani/Japanese Mitten Crab!
        Please read this:
        They lay their eggs in river mouths which explains why some are caught very young in rivers!
        I also found that they probably come from Niigat Prefecture along the Japan sea coast, a very cold area in Winter.
        I even found a site which sells male and female Mitten crabs separately which might explain everything! (sorry, in Jpaanese only!).
        Don’t hesitate if you have other questions and by all means use all information and pics on my website. They are for sharing!
        Best regards,

        My husband suddenly remember they were called ‘River Crabs’ with their pincher’s cut off, about inch long?

        I am sorry to keep bothering you, but its driving me crazy, lol

        Elizabeth Stelling

        Aka Chef E


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