Preparing to appreciate a culture, we are often seduced by the idea of an exotic type of food we’ve never had or an experience much touted by other travelers to the region. Sometimes the hype just doesn’t live up to the experience.

Photo: * etoile

In a New York Times article from September, 2008, food critic Michelle Green writes of one such meal when she partook of hairy crab on a visit to Shanghai.

Is it the fact that you choose your hairy crab live and are thus assured of its freshness? Is the name itself, the blatantly sexual sound of it, part of the reason that foodies worldwide proclaim its virtues as a heavenly, must-try food?

Green and her friends did everything right. They chose a restaurant – Wang Bao He – much loved among hairy crab fanatics. They questioned the waitress to make sure they were ordering the most succulent preparation. They ordered the wine that is said to be the perfect compliment.

In the end, the writer describes this experience:

“The smell,” said Terry, “is like dirty river water.” Under the carapaces lurked gelatinous black deposits; instead of sweet meat, we discovered stringy, bland flesh.

Photo: Dennis Wong

Apparently the hairy crab has fallen victim to not so stringent pollution regulations, the market for it rife with counterfeiters.

Don’t ask me how to counterfeit a hairy crab. I couldn’t begin to tell you.

Tried something that couldn’t live up to the hype?
Gone somewhere just because of all the ecstatic prior visitors who made it seem like the hottest spot ever only to find something worse than ordinary?
Tell us all about it below!