A train carrying about 100,000 crayfish departed for Moscow from China's Wuhan earlier this month. Photo: handout

While China’s football team may be missing from the World Cup in Russia, another item from the mainland that was bound for Moscow also appears to have been sidelined.

The last time China’s football team played in a World Cup was in 2002, but in an effort to keep their fans not only happy but well fed, a huge shipment of crayfish was dispatched to Russia. But its whereabouts are now unknown.

Xinhua reported earlier this month that 2.5 tons of frozen crayfish had set off on a 17-day northbound rail trip aboard the Sino-Europe cargo express from Wuhan in central Hubei province to Moscow, some 6,400 kilometers away.

The expenses were partially footed by Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba.

Chilli crayfish. Photo: Handout

The crayfish were to make their way to restaurants and bars as World Cup specialities, to be consumed with beers for the enjoyment of not only Chinese visitors but also Russians and foreigners. This was part of Beijing’s cultural promotion program at the World Cup, along with footballs and a host of other related goods made in China.

However, there have been no sightings of the Chinese crayfish in the Russian capital. A waiter at a restaurant close to Red Square told the Guangzhou Daily that not many Russians or foreign tourists would try crayfish, as many thought the freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters “were not edible.”

Chinese football fans in Russia interviewed by the paper said they had not found any restaurants or eateries serving crayfish. Some suspected that the much touted Chinese crayfish could be stuck along the way or even have been turned away by Russia’s quarantine and food safety department.

Crayfish became a culinary favorite across China in the late 1990s. It is generally served with Mala flavor – a combination of Sichuan pepper and hot chili – or otherwise steamed whole to be eaten with a preferred sauce. In Beijing, crayfish is often enjoyed with beer in a hot mid-summer evening.

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