The Differences Between Hard Shell Crab, Soft Shell Crab and Krab

November 19, 2018

When dining out, you have probably noticed a plethora of similar sounding ingredients in some of your favorite dishes. In the case of hard shell crab, soft shell crab and krab, this is often confusing. In Japanese cuisine, they are all used in similar dishes, so what are the differences? Here we’ll give you a little information to help you navigate the menu next time you dine with us.


Though called by different names, both soft shell and hard shell crab both come from the same type of crab. These crustaceans, usually blue crabs, go through a molting period when they mature. This means that they have grown too large for their shells and need to remove them before they can grow a new, larger shell to accommodate their size.

This process begins with the crab absorbing water until it swells large enough to break open its current shell and climb out. Once the crab has picked its way free from the old shell, it can begin growing a new shell. A few days will pass before a new hard shell has finished growing to cover the exposed soft body of the crab. During this short window, the crab is harvested quickly and can be prepared in a variety of different ways.

While both soft and hard shell crab have a bright, salty sweet flavor, the textures are quite different. The texture of a soft shell crab is unique. Normally deep fried, a light crunch gives way to the buttery soft meat inside. Though not quite as delicate in texture, the hard shell crab has a slightly more robust flavor hidden inside the tough exterior.

For a soft shell crab experience you will not forget, take a look at our Spider Roll. A deep fried soft shell crab and crab cake are combined with cucumber, avocado, masago and mayo rolled together with diced mango, eel sauce and sesame seeds inside a sheet of crisp nori.


Despite the name, krab is normally not made with any real crab, though some companies do use real crab along with the other ingredients. Called surimi, imitation crab or krab, this imitation meat is normally made of three basic ingredients. White fish, starch and spices are ground together to create a paste which can then be shaped into leg-like pieces and colored to resemble crab. Common in Japanese cuisine, this imitation seafood is used in many dishes all over the world.

Created in Japan as a cost effective replacement for shellfish in the 1970’s, surimi gained global popularity. Not only is it cheap and easy to manufacture, but surimi has a longer shelf life than standard shellfish and is easier to acquire all year. A decade later, surimi surfaced in the United States as imitation crab or Krab in sushi and seafood restaurants where it became a favorite. Today, imitation crab is still widely popular both in seafood dishes and as a shellfish alternative.

For those who would like to try imitation crab today, might we suggest our Rainbow Roll. Imitation crab, cucumber and avocado are rolled together inside nori and topped with tuna, salmon, white fish, avocado, mosago, lemon drops and sesame seeds.

For those who suffer from shellfish or other food allergies, please talk to your chef and server. While we cannot guarantee to completely eliminate all allergens, we will do everything we can to ensure your protection, including preparing your meal in our back kitchen.

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