|Crab cakes for the Super Bowl. Photo by Valerie Phillips|
In San Francisco, it's Dungeness crab, and in Baltimore, it's blue crab. Here in landlocked Utah, both are harder to find than Alaskan snow crab legs (popular at Sizzler, Red Lobster, and other chain restaurants).
Dungeness crab was named after a fishing village in Washington state, and it’s found along the Pacific Coast from California to Alaska. Blue crab, found on the East Coast including Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, gets its name from its blue claws and oval, dark-blue-green shell. Both have smaller, less meaty legs than king or snow crab.
While researching my column, I was able to find cooked, fresh Dungeness crab at Harmon's grocery store in Farmington. The only blue crab I could find in any grocery stores was the canned and packaged varieties, caught in places like Indonesia, Thailand, India and the Philippines. That's pretty far from Maryland.
I looked at the ingredients list of some ready-made crab cakes in the frozen foods aisle, and found that Great American Seafood brand's "restaurant quality crab cakes." The list starts with "imitation crabmeat" such as pollock, cod and/or whiting, and are seasoned with "artificial and natural crab flavors. Way down on the list (after celery) there's some actual crab meat. So there's more celery in the crab cakes than actual crab. There must be some loophole in the laws that allow companies to call a product something it's not. You have to read the fine print to find out the truth.
But I guess it's the thought that counts, not whether it's completely authentic Baltimore or San Francisco crab. But if you're paying out real crab prices and getting "krab" or "imitation whatever," there's a reason to feel pretty crabby about it.