When developing recipes even the most inspired ideas can come to screeching halt when an ingredient isn’t available. I had originally planned for some awesome crab and corn cakes this week, but after visiting 3 stores I couldn’t find any corn — fresh, canned or otherwise. Taking that as a sign that using corn in the middle of winter was probably not the best idea, I went home with over a pound of crab meat and no idea what I was going to do with it.
Once home and with the freshness clock ticking on the crab, I rummaged through my pantry and fridge looking for some inspiration. The first thing I ran into was a bag of crispy fried shallots in the freezer. Then, in the veggie drawer, I came across some leftover lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal from a recent batch of beef rendang. A quick look in the pantry turned up a carton of coconut milk, and as fast as my original idea had crashed and burned, a new idea was born.
Because it’s a crab cake (not a bread cake or mayonnaise cake), I tend to pass on the traditional binders such as flour and egg, which tend to dilute the crab flavor. Instead, I bind my crab cakes using either shrimp or fish puree. With very little filler and giant hunks of sweet crabmeat redolent of a Thai green curry, these crab cakes may not be very traditional, but they are pretty darn tasty.
My crab meat was pretty salty so I didn’t need to add any salt to the mixture, but if you find your crab is on the bland side, add a bit of salt. These are awesome served with just a wedge of lemon or lime, but if you want something more elaborate, try mixing cream cheese, thai chili sauce and lime juice together for a tasty new take on tartar sauce.
Green Curry Crab Cakes
- 500 grams (18 ounces) crab meat
- 16 grams lemongrass, roughly chopped (1 stalk white part only)
- 16 grams galangal, roughly chopped (1/4" thick piece)
- 8 grams garlic (1 large clove)
- 4 kaffir lime leaves
- 1-2 thai bird chilies (to taste)
- 200 grams (7 ounces) shrimp
- 1/3 cup coconut milk
- 2/3 cup panko, for filling
- 1/4 cup fried shallots
- 1 cup panko, for coating
- oil for frying
- lemon or lime for serving
- Put the crab in a medium-sized bowl and pick through it to make sure there are no bits of shell or cartilage hanging out. Be careful not to break up the chunks of crab too much.
- Put the lemongrass, galangal, garlic, lime leaves and chili peppers into a small food processor and process until finely ground.
- Add the shrimp and coconut milk to the herbs and process until it forms a smooth paste.
- Dump the shrimp mixture in with the crab, and add 2/3 cup panko, and the fried shallots. Gently mix this together until combined, being careful not to break up the chunks of crab.
- If the mixture feels too loose to shape, place it in the fridge for half an hour. Otherwise, make 10 balls with the mixture and flatten them to form 3/4" thick pucks.
- Put the remaining panko in a bowl and coat both sides of the crab cakes.
- You can refrigerate these for up to a day until you're ready to fry them.
- To fry, add about 2 tablespoons of oil to a heavy bottomed pan and heat over medium heat until the oil shimmers.
- Add some of the crab cakes to the pan (don't overcrowd your pan) and fry undisturbed until you can see the edges start to turn golden brown. If they are browning too fast, turn the heat down.
- Carefully flip them over using a spatula and tongs then fry until the crab cake is cooked through (an instant-read thermometer should read 140 degrees F in the center).
- Serve with lemon or lime wedges.
Yield: 10 crab cakes
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.