The “Moeche” (moulting crabs)

The moeche are coming! But let’s see what they are and how they are caught and cooked!

Like every year, in autumn and spring the moeche coming in Laguna in Venice and like every year, for a few weeks, they are the most popular dish because moeche besides being delicious arouse the curiosity of tourists and passers-by who wonder: what are moeche?

Here we want to answer this question!

Clarify before the moeche are shellfish and in this case crabs.
When we speak of “arrival of moeche”, it does not mean a real migration or the ‘arrival of the crabs in Laguna. The crabs are caught it all year and also are not certain migratory shellfish but perform a number of “moulting” and cyclically abandon the “old garment” to adjust to the change of the season.For “arrival of moeche” it means the time of year that falls in early autumn or spring, when the crabs, they strip the shell to fit the coming season.

Here are the moeche are nothing more than crabs in the space of time in which, abandoned the old shell, have not yet regenerated the new carapace. The space of a few hours by the loss of the moulting at the start of the biological cycle to which the shell is regenerated, does a crab a moeca.

That’s why they call moeche
Stripped of the shell crabs are very tender and almost soft. And ‘from this their tender texture and soft that Venetians have saddled the crabs without armor name moeche.

But there is who supports another theory, most romantic, that combines the moeche to the city’s symbol, the lion of St. Mark. It appears that the moeche for their rarity are considered sea nuggets typical of Venice and that the name moeca derives from what is the symbol of Venice par excellence: the lion of St. Mark. The lion of St. Mark is depicted with wings just because it rises from the water and in the local dialect is called “el leon en moeca”. Like the winged lion, they are valuable sea products that from the symbol of the city are named.
pescatori in laguna
Fishing for moeche is the art of the moecanti.
The tradition of moeche is present throughout the Laguna and in particular in the areas of Chioggia, Burano and Giudecca. The fishermen of Laguna called moécanti, use for fishing the traditional method with sèecial nets that ensure the protection of marine biological system. Once harvested, the moeche are transferred in suitable jute sacks which have the purpose of keeping the right moisture during transportation to processing plants. At this point, in “casoni” or “casòti”

casoni in laguna

casoni in laguna

starts the sorting phase which has the function of identifying the biological state of the crab. At this stage, the moecanti, great connoisseurs of these crustaceans, select crabs by dividing mature ones (carapace already changed) from those closer to the moulting. Only the crabs coming to the moulting will be placed in special wooden boxes called vieri and half-submerged in sea water to become in a short time moeche.

Moeche in the kitchen
Moeche are highly appreciated in the kitchen, especially if you cook fried. Being a product of an unusual delicacy and available only for a few weeks a year, they are considered a food absolutely rare and sought after.

fried moeche - moeche fritte

fried moeche – moeche fritte

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