Soft-shell crab is a culinary term for crabs which have recently molted their old exoskeleton and are still soft. Soft-shells are removed from the water as soon as they molt to prevent any hardening of their shell. This means that almost the entire animal can be eaten, rather than having to shell the animal to reach the meat. The exceptions are the mouthparts, the gills and the abdomen, which must be discarded. The remaining, edible part of the crab is typically deep fried.
In the United States, the main species is the "blue crab", Callinectes sapidus, which appears in markets from April to September. In Japan, various species are used to make sushi such as maki-zushi or temaki-zushi; the Japanese blue crab (Portunus trituberculatus) or the shore swimming crab (Charybdis japonica) is typically used. In Italy, the soft-shell of the common Mediterranean crab is a delicacy typical of the Venetian lagoon (called moeca in the local idiom).
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