Fishing for crabs: Venice's culinary Moeche delicacy

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Young crabs a delicacy in Italy
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Fishing for crabs: Venice's culinary Moeche delicacy
Crabs are prepared to be cooked at Antiche Carampane restaurant in Venice, Italy, April 23, 2016. The lagoon of this canal-laced Italian city is a fishing mecca. For a few days every spring and autumn, it yields a very particular kind of catch and culinary treat. "Moleche" or "moeche" as they are called in Venetian dialect are young crabs that have shed their baby shells and have yet to grow their adult ones. The renewal process takes only a few hours - a small window during which the Venice Lagoon fishers cast their nets. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi SEARCH "ITALY CRAB" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Fisherman Ivan Bagnolo (L) and his assistant prepare fishing nets to catch crabs at the Venice lagoon, Italy, April 22, 2016. The lagoon of this canal-laced Italian city is a fishing mecca. For a few days every spring and autumn, it yields a very particular kind of catch and culinary treat. "Moleche" or "moeche" as they are called in Venetian dialect are young crabs that have shed their baby shells and have yet to grow their adult ones. The renewal process takes only a few hours - a small window during which the Venice Lagoon fishers cast their nets. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi SEARCH "ITALY CRAB" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A fish market is seen in Venice, Italy, April 23, 2016. The lagoon of this canal-laced Italian city is a fishing mecca. For a few days every spring and autumn, it yields a very particular kind of catch and culinary treat. "Moleche" or "moeche" as they are called in Venetian dialect are young crabs that have shed their baby shells and have yet to grow their adult ones. The renewal process takes only a few hours - a small window during which the Venice Lagoon fishers cast their nets. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi SEARCH "ITALY CRAB" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A fish is surrounded by moeche crabs at the Venice lagoon, Italy, April 22, 2016. The lagoon of this canal-laced Italian city is a fishing mecca. For a few days every spring and autumn, it yields a very particular kind of catch and culinary treat. "Moleche" or "moeche" as they are called in Venetian dialect are young crabs that have shed their baby shells and have yet to grow their adult ones. The renewal process takes only a few hours - a small window during which the Venice Lagoon fishers cast their nets. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi SEARCH "ITALY CRAB" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Fisherman Ivan Bagnolo (R) and his assistant fish for crabs at the Venice lagoon, Italy, April 22, 2016. The lagoon of this canal-laced Italian city is a fishing mecca. For a few days every spring and autumn, it yields a very particular kind of catch and culinary treat. "Moleche" or "moeche" as they are called in Venetian dialect are young crabs that have shed their baby shells and have yet to grow their adult ones. The renewal process takes only a few hours - a small window during which the Venice Lagoon fishers cast their nets. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi SEARCH "ITALY CRAB" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Moeche crabs are seen caught at the Venice lagoon, Italy, April 22, 2016. The lagoon of this canal-laced Italian city is a fishing mecca. For a few days every spring and autumn, it yields a very particular kind of catch and culinary treat. "Moleche" or "moeche" as they are called in Venetian dialect are young crabs that have shed their baby shells and have yet to grow their adult ones. The renewal process takes only a few hours - a small window during which the Venice Lagoon fishers cast their nets. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi SEARCH "ITALY CRAB" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A moeche crab is seen at the Venice lagoon, Italy, April 22, 2016. The lagoon of this canal-laced Italian city is a fishing mecca. For a few days every spring and autumn, it yields a very particular kind of catch and culinary treat. "Moleche" or "moeche" as they are called in Venetian dialect are young crabs that have shed their baby shells and have yet to grow their adult ones. The renewal process takes only a few hours - a small window during which the Venice Lagoon fishers cast their nets. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi SEARCH "ITALY CRAB" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A bas-relief of the Lion of St. Mark is seen over a door at the Venice lagoon, Italy, April 23, 2016. Saint Mark is the patron saint of Venice. The lagoon of this canal-laced Italian city is a fishing mecca. For a few days every spring and autumn, it yields a very particular kind of catch and culinary treat. "Moleche" or "moeche" as they are called in Venetian dialect are young crabs that have shed their baby shells and have yet to grow their adult ones. The renewal process takes only a few hours - a small window during which the Venice Lagoon fishers cast their nets. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi SEARCH "ITALY CRAB" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Fishing nets are seen at the Venice lagoon, Italy, April 22, 2016. The lagoon of this canal-laced Italian city is a fishing mecca. For a few days every spring and autumn, it yields a very particular kind of catch and culinary treat. "Moleche" or "moeche" as they are called in Venetian dialect are young crabs that have shed their baby shells and have yet to grow their adult ones. The renewal process takes only a few hours - a small window during which the Venice Lagoon fishers cast their nets. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi SEARCH "ITALY CRAB" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A fishing net is seen at the Venice lagoon, Italy, April 22, 2016. The lagoon of this canal-laced Italian city is a fishing mecca. For a few days every spring and autumn, it yields a very particular kind of catch and culinary treat. "Moleche" or "moeche" as they are called in Venetian dialect are young crabs that have shed their baby shells and have yet to grow their adult ones. The renewal process takes only a few hours - a small window during which the Venice Lagoon fishers cast their nets. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi SEARCH "ITALY CRAB" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A box with moeche crabs is seen at a fish market in Venice, Italy, April 23, 2016. The lagoon of this canal-laced Italian city is a fishing mecca. For a few days every spring and autumn, it yields a very particular kind of catch and culinary treat. "Moleche" or "moeche" as they are called in Venetian dialect are young crabs that have shed their baby shells and have yet to grow their adult ones. The renewal process takes only a few hours - a small window during which the Venice Lagoon fishers cast their nets. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi SEARCH "ITALY CRAB" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Cooked crabs are seen at Antiche Carampane restaurant in Venice, Italy, April 23, 2016. The lagoon of this canal-laced Italian city is a fishing mecca. For a few days every spring and autumn, it yields a very particular kind of catch and culinary treat. "Moleche" or "moeche" as they are called in Venetian dialect are young crabs that have shed their baby shells and have yet to grow their adult ones. The renewal process takes only a few hours - a small window during which the Venice Lagoon fishers cast their nets. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi SEARCH "ITALY CRAB" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Fisherman Ivan Bagnolo (R) and his assistant catch crabs at the Venice lagoon, Italy, April 22, 2016. The lagoon of this canal-laced Italian city is a fishing mecca. For a few days every spring and autumn, it yields a very particular kind of catch and culinary treat. "Moleche" or "moeche" as they are called in Venetian dialect are young crabs that have shed their baby shells and have yet to grow their adult ones. The renewal process takes only a few hours - a small window during which the Venice Lagoon fishers cast their nets. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi SEARCH "ITALY CRAB" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
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VENICE, Italy, May 27 (Reuters) - For a few days every spring and autumn, the lagoon of canal-laced Venice yields a very particular kind of catch and culinary treat.

"Moleche" -- or "moeche" as they called in the Venetian dialect -- are young crabs that have shed their baby shells and have yet to grow their adult ones. The renewal process takes only a few hours: a small window during which the Venice Lagoon anglers cast their nets.

The crabs' soft exterior hardens quickly if the crabs aren't fished right away. Those that are scooped up before their shedding are kept in deep vats of seawater until their transformation takes place.

Once at the fish market and on trattoria tables, the "moeche" do not come cheap. They sell on average for 50 euros - 80 euros ($55-89) per kilogram. Venetian chefs prefer to serve the crabs fried in a flour batter and boiling oil.

"It has the typical sweetness of a crab, combined with a sapid, savory flavor due to the saltiness of the lagoon waters," said Francesco Agopyan, owner of the Antiche Carampane.

"It is a very popular dish, especially among Venetians but also by others. It's a special dish."

The moeche crabs are more than a deliciously moist culinary tradition of Italy's lagoon city. Historians say they pervade Venice's artistic tradition as well.

In paintings and sculptures, the Venetian lion, symbol of the city, is often portrayed front facing with its wings around its head.

The shape is reminiscent of a crab's claws, and in Venice, the lion depicted in this way is often referred to as being in "moeca."

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