Sand crayfish, or ‘gang sai’ in the Thai language, are a different species to the types of crayfish we would normally eat. They are shaped differently, they have a row of fins running down their underside, and they live in the sand rather than water. They also taste different to the crayfish or shrimp most of us are used to. Sand crayfish are much sweeter but none the less they have that distinctive crayfish texture and flavour and Thai people love to eat.
Bucket of Sand Crayfish
Sand shrimp and crayfish are farmed commercially all over the world largely as bait for fishermen. There are many different varieties and it is only really in South East Asia that sand shrimp form a part of the main stream cuisine. In Thailand they like to deep fry them in a light batter. These sand shrimp were caught in Koh Phangan by local resort workers on Thong Nai Pan beach. It is a free meal but only for those people who have the technique to catch them. This is a good technique to know if you ever need to survive on a deserted island in South East Asia.
Lower your bait into an air hole for the sand crayfish.
Crab leg is used as bait to catch the sand shrimp
The air holes which indicate the presence of the sand crayfish below are slightly larger than other air holes you will see by the tide line on a Thai beach. For this reason you can only catch sand crayfish when the tide is going out and there are only very small waves. There are lot different creatures living in the sand and each has a differently air hole. The sand cray fish tends to be the creature with the largest air holes on most beaches. Working out which one is which is easy once you know the width of the creature’s body. In the picture the lady catching the sand crayfish has lowered the leg of small crab into the air hole with the meat exposed at the end of the crab’s leg and a fork at the ready for Step 2. of the crayfish hunt.
Step 2. requires some patience as the person trying the catch the sand crayfish needs to wait until they feel the crayfish below try to take a hold of the crab leg.
Sand crayfish is caught on a fork
Once you can feel the crayfish pulling on the crab leg the next part of the process is to put a fork into the sand towards exactly the point slightly below end of the crab’s leg in the sand. The narrow body of the crayfish should fit tightly between the prongs of the fork. Clearly the crayfish is going to injured by this process so sand crayfish should only be caught in this way if you intend to eat them or use them as bait for fishing. If you plan to try to catch them for your aquarium then you need to dig the sand crayfish out out with a big spade to avoid damaging the crayfish.