There are so many reasons why Venice is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Italy’s “Floating City” has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for over 30 years, with a vast network of canals that are perfect for a romantic gondola ride, incredible Venetian Gothic architecture and rich history of international trade, wealth, and political power, Venice is a truly unique city with a little something for everyone. Having said all of that, the number one reason to visit Venice in our opinion is to sample the local food!
As is typical in all of Italy, Venice has its own regional specialities that encompass the culture and traditions of this extraordinary city. Venice Food and dishes such as bigoli in salsa (whole wheat noodles, with onions and anchovies), risotto al nero di seppia (squid ink risotto) and baccalà mantecato (creamed dried cod on grilled polenta) have become firm favourites in trattorias across the rest of the country and beyond. 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 soft shell crab, found exclusively in the waters around Venice. They are an authentic Venice food delicacy!
What are Moeche?
Moeche (also referred to as moleche or moeca depending on who you’re talking to) are soft shell crabs from the lagoons of Venice, caught in spring, between April and May, or in autumn, between October and November. They are considered a true Venetian delicacy and one of the best food in Venice.
The Fishermen of Venice, known locally as Molecanti, can tell exactly when the crabs are about to shed their shells. This is extremely important 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 now caught and farmed around the islands of Burano and Giudecca but until the 1950’s raising moeche was only practised by the crab farmers of Chioggia. These days, crab farming is one of La Serenissima’s most important industries.
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 €25 to €80 a kilo, depending on when and where the crabs were caught but once you take your first bite of these delicious salty treats, washed down with a cold glass of crisp local Prosecco, we’re sure you’ll forget all about their somewhat lofty price tag.
The classic Venetian way of cooking moeche is not going to be for everyone: The crabs are soaked, still alive, in beaten egg, then dipped in seasoned flour before being deep-fried in olive oil and butter until crisp and golden. They are served with sea salt and fresh lemon wedges in typically simple yet delicious Italian fashion.
10 – 12 live moeche.
130 grams of plain flour.
3 Tablespoons of light olive oil.
3 Tablespoons of Butter.
Salt and black pepper.
2 fresh lemons, cut into wedges and sea salt flakes to serve.
- Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl with a pinch of salt, chuck in the live moeche and cover for 2 hours.
- Season the flour generously with salt and pepper and mix well.
- Dip the egg drenched crabs in the flour mixture and shake of any excess flour.
- Heat the butter and olive oil to 180 to 200 degrees c in a heavy saucepan or high sided frying pan and fry the moeche in batches, turning half way through until golden brown and crisp.
- Serve immediately with an extra sprinkle of sea salt and the fresh lemon wedges.
(The recipe of this Venice food delicacy is adapted from a version by summerinitaly.com)
What If you don’t want to venture out alone?
If you want to taste the best food in Venice but you don’t want to venture out alone don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Our walking food tour of Venice is a journey through the distinctive cuisine of this unique city. The culinary tradition of Venice is a rich blend made by sailors, merchants, fishermen, farmers, foreigners and locals, by the sea around and the Alps nearby, by ingredients easily available in the rich water surrounding the city or in the fertile plains of Veneto and the influences coming from lands far away.
Taste some of the best food in Venice from the floating labyrinth, get lost in Venice’s flavors and traditions, get away from the tourist traps that too often are found in this magnificent city, discover the great wine culture of Venice region and enjoy a tasty and sumptuous introduction of La Serenissima’s cuisine.