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A food delicacy or a cruel tradition?
December 15, 2019
5 min.
As is typical in all of Italy, Venice has its own regional specialities, heritage of the culture and history of this extraordinary city but also related to the environment end economy of the floating city. We have already posted about Venice food and dishes and we promise that we’ll get back on tasty subjects such as bigoli in salsa (thick, whole wheat noodles in a sauce made only with onions and anchovies), risotto al nero di seppia (squid ink risotto) or baccalà mantecato (a cream made of cod cooked in milk). If you are lucky enough you may found them in restaurants in other parts of Italy. However, one regional delicacy that you won’t find on a menu in any other part of the world, is the locally revered Moeche: a deep-fried crab, found exclusively in the waters around Venice. They are an authentic Venice food delicacy!

What are Moeche?

Moeche (plural of moeca and also referred to as moleche in some part of the Venetian lagoon) are a kind of crab found in the lagoons of Venice, caught in spring (mostly in April) or in Autumn, around October, when the crabs are moulting, their shell is very soft and they can be eaten whole. They are a true and expensive Venetian delicacy: they are collected by specialized fishermen called moecanti, who pick by hand only the crabs during those one or two days when their new carapace is extremely soft, and throw back in the lagoon the other crabs caught in their nets.

Their knowledge and skills is kept in high esteem by locals as there is a window of just a few hours to get them out of the water before their shells begin to harden again and they are too tough to eat. The art of fishing for moeche and its been passed down through generations of fishermen and women for over 300 years.
The crabs are caught and farmed in various parts of the Venetian lagoon, although until the 1950’s raising moeche was only practised by the crab farmers of Chioggia, in the southern part of the lagoon. The place where moecanti can cast their fishnets is decided each year, usually in December, with a raffle.

Where can you find the freshest catch?
The number one place to buy fresh moeche is at the world-famous Rialto market. These little flavour bombs aren’t cheap by any means. You can expect to pay anything from €40 to €80 a kilo, depending on when and where the crabs were caught. Venetians say that once you take your first bite of these delicious salty treats, washed down with a cold glass of crisp Prosecco or a Venetian white, you’ll forget all about their lofty price tag.

How do you cook Moeche?

The classic Venetian way of cooking moeche is not for everyone, and this tradition has been criticized for its cruelty by many supporters of animal rights. In fact the crabs are soaked, still alive, in beaten egg, where they are left for a while. They eagerly eat the eggs, filling themselves. They are then dipped in seasoned flour and deep-fried in olive oil (and sometimes butter) until crisp and golden. They are served with sea salt and fresh lemon wedges.

What If you don’t want to venture out alone?

Moeche are very difficult to find in Venetian restaurant: not only they are expensive, but they are also found only in very specific time of the year, they are little in quantity and Venetians love them and tend to keep them for themselves. They are not easily found on restaurant’s menus. You can try to contact us, we’ll do our best to help you finding them.
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