The Role of Crayfish in the Economic and Social Spheres of Chinese Food Industry

A video clip posted by Weibo user Jiuke showing a crayfish, a close relative of lobster, making daring escape from being boiled alive in a Sichuan hotpot by clipping off its own claw has gone viral since a month ago on Chinese social medias and social medias around the world. Although these freshwater crustaceans, also known as crawfish and literally “little lobster” in Chinese, have the ability to regrow their lost limbs, amputating its own claw still appears courageous and intelligent. Now the surviving crayfish becomes a pet and is living in an aquarium in Jiuke’s home, according to Casey Quackenbush on Crayfish being one of the most popular culinary delicacies in China nowadays was first viewed as an invasive species and pest in the agricultural industry sector. It caused catastrophic damage to rice terraced fields. Rice farmers in China hated them and used pesticides to kill them in order to save their crops. This came to an end when people found out about the great economic value of crayfish.

According to Robert John’s blog about business in Asia, the first recorded commercial harvest in Lousiana of the United States became the first successful model for the commercialization of crayfish. This provided an excellent business solution for China to solve the “crayfish dilemma”. This consequently gave birth to a booming industry of crayfish. With Louisiana producing 85-95% of crayfish production in the United States and China having similar agricultural conditions, the Jiangsu province of China quickly became the second Louisiana (John). According to China’s Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), the crayfish sector in China is worth of 42 billion USD up to date, which takes into account both upstream and downstream sales (Harkell). Upstream includes crayfish cultivation and farming and factory processing. Downstream includes catering, markets and online retailing etc. It is ironic that a rice farmer’s worst enemy serving as cheap agricultural fodder becomes the most sought-after food among urban millennials and a pillar industry of the total Chinese food service market.

According to the statistics of MoA, China is the world’s biggest producer and exporter of crayfish:


China is the world’s largest crayfish producer, according to a 2017 report by the then Ministry of Agriculture, now known as the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. Its output skyrocketed to 852,300 tonnes in 2016 from 265,500 tonnes in 2007. Outside the domestic market, Chinese crayfish have found fans in the United States and Europe. In 2016, China exported 23,300 tonnes of crayfish worth 259 million U.S. dollars. Nearly 40 percent went to the United States, while 90 percent of the crayfish consumed in Europe came from China. (“Across China”)



The long development of crayfish industry in China since the initial imitation of the U.S. model has created a huge innovative industry which encompasses a whole chain of sub-industries, which include but not limited to entertainment, catering and online shopping etc. The significance of crayfish in Chinese food industry is reflected from the transformative impact that it acts on the economic and social landscapes of the total Chinese food service market. Crayfish has reshaped the Chinese food industry on various aspects especially in the economic sphere because these “little lobsters” have boosted the development of industrial transformation and upgrade. In the social sphere, on the other hand, crayfish has served as a social tool for people to interact and connect with each other.

Crayfish has lead the transformation and upgrading of the Chinese food industry because these “little lobsters” unleash the market power on economic development and industrial upgrade. In the upstream level, it promotes transformation by raising huge demand for food quality control among Chinese customers. Crayfish, being a highly adaptable freshwater aquatic species, is often seen living in seemingly dirty environments. This fact has raised great concerns about the safety of crayfish among Chinese customers because they are really worried about whether the “little lobsters” they eat live in a sanitary environment and are fed with clean and nutritious food sources. Qingjiang in Hubei Province, a city famous for its crayfish production and industrial improvement attempts, offers a satisfactory answer to this question of Chinese customers.

In order to dispel the concerns regarding the sourcing of crayfish, Qianjiang first introduces “ID cards” for live crayfish to counteract the concern of sanitary condition and nutritious value of crayfish. According to Xinhuanet, “by scanning a QR code on a carton of crayfish, the buyer can learn information about the animals inside, such as where they were raised, where they were bred, and even details about their food. The measure is part of Qianjiang’s efforts to build a quality traceability system for crayfish. The city produces one-tenth of China’s crayfish” (“Across China”). Chinese customers’ demand for better food quality stemming from the environmental adaptability of crayfish has provided incentives for crayfish sourcing companies to improve their services by implementing technological advancement to ensure food safety and quality.

In addition to implementing the “ID cards”, Qianjiang still turned to technological innovation. Qianjiang chose to build an online quality monitoring system and a quality testing center and is cooperating with SF Express, which enabled monitoring use of food sources, living conditions and rapid precise tests of crayfish and fast delivery of live crayfish ordered online to more than 300 domestic cities within 2 days (“Across China”). These attempts of incorporating technological innovations are examples of structural reforms in the supply side of the crayfish industry, which in turn sets a great exemplary model for other food service sectors. In the downstream, on the other hand, crayfish culinary training and crayfish-themed restaurants have become very popular and incurred increasing demand for the innovation, reform and upgrade of the upstream industry.

“As Chinese policymakers seek to promote domestic consumption in order to reduce the economy’s reliance on fixed-asset investment and exports, the growth of industries such as crayfish is a welcome development” (Wildau). In addition, according to MoA, “Crayfish has afforded undeveloped rural regions an effective catching-up strategy for rural development and poverty alleviation; played an important role in cultivating new opportunities for local economic growth; promoted structural reforms in the supply side of the agricultural (fishery) industry and efficiency; and increased the income of farmers (fishers)” (Harkell). Crayfish’s important role in reshaping the economics and social landscapes of the total Chinese food service market has been magnified in the background of Chinese government encouraging and supporting the development of Crayfish industry. The accidental effects crayfish have on the Chinese food industry provide thoughts on how to develop or reform a specific industry by focusing on commercializing a targeted product. These “little lobsters” become a successful symbolic representative of this economic development strategy.

In the social sphere, crayfish night-outs trends in the social culture of Chinese millennials and boosts the development of crayfish-themed cultural activities:


Affluent urbanites enjoy the ritual of donning plastic gloves to peel and eat the critters, which are typically slathered in a spicy sauce. Some note that the sauce-drenched gloves prevent fellow diners from checking their mobile phones during a group meal, encouraging social interaction. The restaurants typically stay open late at night, the aroma drawing in revellers. “Crayfish satisfies the culture of late-night snacking, and it also substantially raises the quality of social interactions,” He Mingke, wrote in a research report on the industry by Cyanhill Capital, a venture fund. (Wildau)


The underlying significance of eating crayfish in a social setting and the pure joy of this feasting ritual are interconnected. Crayfish is the carrier of cultural and interpersonal communications. This is truly an interesting phenomenon that crayfish plays such an important role in Chinese food industry and culture.












Work Cited

Quackenbush, Casey. “Crayfish Amputated Its Own Claw to Escape Hotpot in China.” Time, Time, 4 June 2018,


John, Robert. “Chinese Crawfish vs. Louisiana Crawfish.” NOLASIA, NOLASIA, 7 Apr. 2016,


Harkell, Louis. “China Gov’t Says Country’s Crayfish Industry Worth $42bn.” Undercurrent News, Undercurrent News, 19 June 2018,


“Across China: China’s ‘Hometown of Crayfish’ Moves to Improve Quality.” Quotable Quotes on Belt and Road from World Intellectual, Business Personnel – Xinhua |, Xinhuanet, 30 June 2018,


Wildau, Gabriel. “Chinese Urban Consumers Gobble up Crayfish as Industry Booms.” Financial Times, Financial Times, 25 Aug. 2017,


Cha Siu Baozi

When my mom soaked whole grain dough in fresh milk,

She would add a few duck eggs to texturize the dough.

She then kneaded the dough and divided it into small chunks.

She would pour Liaojiu, Laochou and add sugar into a bowl of diced fatty pork.

With chopsticks she would make the filling by mixing them all.

Then she would scoop some, put into a piece of flattened dough and squeeze to seal the filling.

In pyramidal shapes

Yellow and rough like honeycomb.

In a Cha Siu Baozi,

We would have a huge bite and let the succulent filling flow out.

After a few buns in a row,

The stomach would be full, the mind would be satisfactory and happy.


I chose Hong Junju’s “Noodles in Broth”to imitate. I chose this piece because I shared the same passion for appreciating the beauty of the noodle dish preparing process with the author, as well as the tribute of the food itself. The comprehensive description of the chef’s cooking process echoes with my recent experience of watching my mom making Cha Siu Baozi (Steamed bun stuffed with barbecued roast pork) and me enjoying cooking myself. The culinary process is truly artistic enjoyment and spiritual nurture for not only the chef but also for people observing. The smooth progression of the cooking procedures leads to a colorful and flavorful bowl of noodles, which is a feast for both your vision and gustation. Although the taste of the noodles was not a main focus for the author, he still depicted the satisfaction of eating the noodles and being full of noodles and shed lights on the beauty of the silky noodles.

I learned about my own culture, which was a direct descendent of the author’s, by spotting cultural DNAs demonstrated in the author’s piece and minethrough imitating his writing,which are the great emphasis on the sophisticated process of making the noodles andthe valuing of the noodle dish itself. I realized that these two were important aspects of Chinese food culture and life philosophy. Appreciating and praising food is a traditional Chinese moral value and practice, which has influenced every generation of Chinese. By describing the transformation of the dough into fine long strings of noodles in metaphorical terms, the author expressed that he saw the noodles and the silk in the same way, which were both beautiful and precious similar to my relationship with Baozi and honey. If food is an admirable masterpiece, then the cooking is a ritual of self-actualization, from which you could derive nourishing pleasure and a sense of great achievement. People watching the ritual could also benefit from the aesthetics of cooking.

The Ever-evolving Identity of Noodle – Zhonghua (Calvin) Huang

Noodle is a grain-based dough that is divided into a certain shape with a unique refined texture by a certain method. Noodle plays an integral role in every regional food culture worldwide and was woven into people’s life including the Chinese and Italian peoplebecause of its ever-evolving position and meaning in human history. Noodle, which is mostly made out of grain, consist of mainly carbohydrate thus a major energy source for human body throughout history. This is especially true in agrarian societies globally. In the old days when food resources were very limited because of low productivity, people relied heavily on carbohydrate, namely noodle or grain. The protagonist of a noodle dish would be the noodle itself rather than meats or vegetables added. Few meats or vegetables would be added or simply none. Noodle completes its mission of filling human’s stomach. Grain is grinded into powders then made into dough and soon noodles with various shapes. I think the reason why is probably to increase texture and its ability to absorb the flavour of the broth and other ingredients. Its unique texture also provide enjoyment to human’s mouth. To be specific, some noodle dishes in relatively poor areas in China, such as the north-western region, are comprised of noodle, oils and spices. Biang Biang noodles, Youpo noodles and Mianpi in Shanxi province are some great examples. Oils and spices used add flavors to the noodle to help people ingest. These dishes, which are products of the old days, become representatives of the regional cuisine and are incorporated into people’s diet even for today.

Although we have a lot of substitutes for noodle today, we still don’t give up eating the simple combination of noodle and chili oil and a bowl of Yangchun noodles which only have soy sauce and pork oil added to the noodle. This is because noodle is already deeply embedded in our culture and diet, which becomes a cultural phenomenon rather than just a way of sustaining the human body. The composition of a noodle dish changed when food resources became abundant and people tried to explore substitutes of carbohydrate, such as protein. Noodle was no longer the sole protagonist of a noodle dish. It was more prone to be a duo or trio with oils, spices, sauces and broths added. Now noodle dish becomes a party of tons of ingredients. Eating noodle is no longer an act of ingesting carbohydrate to provide the body with energy. With other ingredients shining on the stage, noodle preserve its space because it provides textures and satiety to your brain. But this is not sufficient to describe the real meaning of noodle. Eating noodle with other food is turned into a cultural act or a habit that is impossible to get rid of. Without noodle, any forms of ingredients combination are meaningless not only because we lose some textures but also the integrity of a culture. Thus, we could say that noodle is a cultural phenomena with a physical carrier as this idea is also implicitly expressed in the story of Yunnan’s “Crossing the Bridge” noodles. According to Terry Durack, the family cook shows his love for the son of his master by preparing the ingredients of the “Crossing the Bridge” noodles separately so that his loved one could have the noodle dish piping hot, which could help him succeed in the exam. The culture of selfless love between family members in Yunnan, China is powerfully conveyed through the lens of the noodle.

Blog 1

Beef noodle soup (牛肉粿条)and oyster omelette (蚝烙/蚵仔煎/海蛎煎)are two of the most common Teochew/Chaoshan (潮汕)dishes in Teochew/Chaoshan cuisine, which originated from the Chaoshan region in China’s eastern Guangdong province. Although these two are not the most sophisticated and well-known, the locals love them, and they are also gaining popularity in other parts of Guangdong province, even in the rest of the country. Beef noodle soup is a perfect kickoff of a day for my family. It might sound and look familiar to you because it is very similar to Vietnamese Pho. Chaoshan beef noodle soup was brought to Southeast Asia by Chaoshan people. It has a great influence on rice noodle soup there. On the other hand, Oyster omelets with beer is always my top choice of late night food in a social gathering setting because each plate is for sharing.

Beef noodle soup has rice noodle, broth and beef three components. They are all equally important. However, beef has a wider variety of choices, such as beef meatball, sliced beef, beef entrails etc. Tender sliced beef and thin sliced beef tongue are always my family’s favourite. Slipping those thin rice noodles with the aromatic marrow bone broth is pure enjoyment. In my perspective, beef noodle soup is perfect for breakfast and lunch because it is both flavourful and refreshing at the same time. Most restaurants don’t serve it after lunch since it is sold up quickly in the late morning. My family and I often have it for brunch but if you aim for the good parts of beef then you probably should go earlier. I cherish the experience so much not only because it is a feast for my sensations but also a refreshing and memorable start of a day with my family. I would not feel in this way if I have not been studying abroad for almost three years. I have only gone back home four times during my time abroad. When I’m abroad and craving for food, I think of that bowl of noodle soup with a hint of the restaurant’s special homemade spicy sauce. Oyster omelette, on the other hand, is destined to be shared among friends. You order a few plates at a time. Then the chopsticks go in the plates and they are emptied right away. It really connects people when you share amazing food while chatting.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to immerse in food cultures of ethnic communities in Atlanta because I have only stayed in Atlanta for a year.