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April 27, 2011

Oh, I have a longing for seafood now that summer is approaching. I seriously have a craving for some yummy superfresh fish and crab to barbeque or some gorgeous fried squid to gobble up. Miss Hong Kong where I remember walking past tanks of crab, lobster and fish and picking exactly what was going to be cooked for my dinner.  Yes, I am serious about food, blame my parents for influencing me to this extent.

A convenient alternative to fresh crab

Beggars can’t be choosers as I don’t live near the sea plus my food budget isn’t that high at the moment so I decided to compromise and make do with tinned crab. I know it’s not the best thing to use but it’s a reasonable choice in my circumstances. If you can access freshly cooked crab, great! Go ahead and use it instead of canned crab. I decided to make crab cakes as wanted something light and fresh tasting to eat.

Tried a crab cake recipe from a young English chef, Jason Atherton, who has won a load of awards and recently published his recipe in the Independent newspaper.  English crab cakes tend to combine mashed potato with crab meat while American ones generally use breadcrumbs instead. I found that you have to be gentle when handling these crab cakes. Thought it would be good to compare coating half the crab cakes with Japanese panko breadcrumbs to the remainder without any breadcrumb coating. If you want to use breadcrumbs, panko or not, you need a beaten egg to dip the crab cake into before placing in a bowl of breadcrumbs. The egg helps the breadcrumbs to stick to the crab cake.

Crab cakes: top 3 coated with panko breadcrumbs, bottom 3 without breadcrumbs

For those not familiar with panko breadcrumbs, they have a very pleasing texture compared to normal breadcrumbs, kind of like, more crisper and lighter. They are used to coat pork and chicken pieces, fried and eaten with Japanese curry, it’s very popular over in Japan, almost like a comfort food for them. You can buy these breadcrumbs from Chinese supermarkets.

After comparing with and without panko breadcrumbs, I thought both types were great tasting, however the texture of the breadcrumbs gives them a better edge so I’m happy eating crab cakes coated with panko.

Chilling the crab mixture is essential otherwise they tend to fall apart easily. You have to work quickly when shaping the crab cake patties and handle gently when shallow frying, only turn once otherwise there’s a risk you might break the crab cake. Jason Atherton’s recipe was fairly easy and tasted light and fluffy but I cut back on the ground black pepper seasoning (1 tsp to 1/2 tsp) so that the crab flavour was more dominant.

These are great to make well in advance and make a lovely starter when served with salad, I combined watercress and spinach leaves with a few scattered coriander leaves with a lime, soy sauce and olive oil dressing. I added lime wedges to squeeze over the crab cakes and added a dollop of sweet chilli sauce. YUM!

English-style crab cakes

Makes 6 cakes, serve 2 cakes/person

250 g  cooked crabmeat

100 g mashed potato

3 spring onions, dark green part only, finely chopped

2 tbsp finely chopped parsley

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 beaten egg

1/2 tsp salt

Flour for dusting

Olive oil for shallow frying


1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs in a bowl

1 beaten egg in a bowl

Crab cake mixture

Crab cake patties

  1. Combine potato, crabmeat, spring onion, parsley, pepper, cayenne, egg and salt and mix evenly.
  2. Use your hands to form 6 balls of crab cake mixture, place on a plate or baking tray and then use your palm to flatten the balls into circles about 6 cm in diameter.
  3. Chill in the fridge for at least 45 min.
  4. Preheat olive oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat, use enough oil to just coat the bottom of the pan.
  5. Dust the crab cakes with flour on both sides. Optionally, if you want to use breadcrumbs, after dusting with flour, coat them in egg followed by breadcrumbs.
  6. Shallow fry gently for 4-5 min on each side until browned. Serve with a salad of your choice with your favourite dipping sauce.
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