By Bonnie S. Benwick
The Washington Post
This recipe deserves a berth in your crab cake repertoire because of the pungent, bright-tasting combination of kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, chili pepper and cilantro. Even though fresh bread crumbs are employed, the small cakes' taste and texture are all crab -- not filler.
You'll need a thermometer to gauge the frying oil temperature.
The crab cake mixture needs to be refrigerated for 15 minutes. It can be assembled up to 30 minutes in advance.
Serve with salad greens.
Adapted from "The 30-Minute Cook," by Nigel Slater (Penguin, 2006).
- Thai Crab Cakes
Makes 3 or 4 servings (10 to 12 small crab cakes)
3 slices (3 ounces total) white or whole-wheat bread
6 fresh kaffir lime leaves
1 stalk lemon grass
2 small red (bird's-eye) chili peppers
Leaves from 3 or 4 stems cilantro
1 pound crabmeat
1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 heaping tablespoons regular or low-fat mayonnaise
Peanut or canola oil, for frying
Flour, for dusting
Cut the crusts off the bread, then cut the bread into chunks, placing them in the food processor as you work. Pulse just long enough to create pea-size crumbs; the yield should be 3 cups. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
Pile the following ingredients on the cutting board as you work: Coarsely chop the kaffir lime leaves. Use the flat side of a chef's knife to smash the lemon grass, then discard the tough outer layer(s); coarsely chop the rest. Seed the chili peppers, if desired, then coarsely chop. Trim the scallions, then coarsely chop (white and all green parts). Transfer it all to the food processor, along with the cilantro; pulse just until evenly chopped (but not to the point of a wet mixture). Transfer to the mixing bowl; toss with the bread crumbs.
Pick over the crabmeat to remove any cartilage, then add to the bowl, along with the fish sauce and mayonnaise. Stir gently to incorporate; the mixture will not quite hold together. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
With about 5 minutes' chilling time to go, pour about 1/4 inch of oil into a large skillet over medium-high heat; heat to a temperature of 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels, then seat a wire cooling rack on top.
Shape the crab mixture into 10 to 12 small patties of equal size. Spread flour across the bottom of a dinner plate; lightly coat each crab cake on both sides, shaking off any excess.
Add half of the flour-coated patties to the hot oil; if the first one in doesn't sizzle, adjust the temperature of the oil as needed. Fry for about 2 minutes or until the patties are lightly browned on the bottom; turn them over and fry on the second side for 2 to 3 minutes. Use two slotted spatulas to transfer the crab cakes to the rack to drain. Repeat with the remaining crab cakes.
Serve warm or at room temperature.