Fried soft-shell crabs with carrot and coriander salad

Serves 4
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Blue swimmer crabs shed their shells up to 23 times during their three-year-long lives and the result of each moulting is an increase of 25-40 per cent body weight. In the Chesapeake Bay the locals have many names for soft-shell crabs including paper shells, peelers, snots, Sally crabs and buckrams. Throughout the summer season they will be everywhere from the smartest restaurants to the local diner, and you will see kids sitting on the harbour wall munching on soft-shell crab sandwiches.

Blue swimmer crabs shed their shells up to 23 times during their three-year-long lives and the result of each moulting is an increase of 25-40 per cent body weight. In the Chesapeake Bay the locals have many names for soft-shell crabs including paper shells, peelers, snots, Sally crabs and buckrams. Throughout the summer season they will be everywhere from the smartest restaurants to the local diner, and you will see kids sitting on the harbour wall munching on soft-shell crab sandwiches.

Over here we can only buy them frozen, in Chinese and South East Asian stores and some specialist fishmongers, which is perfectly good for frying in batter. They're expensive, but the whole thing is completely edible and there's no preparation. A light tempura-like batter is normally the best coating. Or treat them like whitebait - put them through plain flour seasoned with cayenne pepper and salt, shake, dip in milk and flour again. Sauces like tartare or just bottled Asian chilli sauce work well.

4 soft-shell crabs, each about 50g each
Vegetable or corn oil, for deep-frying

for the batter

200ml iced water
75g plain flour
25g potato flour

for the carrot and coriander salad

6 medium carrots, peeled and finely shredded
4 spring onions, finely shredded at an angle
2tsp sweet chilli sauce
1tbsp rice vinegar
2tbsp chopped coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the batter by mixing the ingredients together, but don't worry if there are a few lumps left in it. Chop the crabs into quarters and pat them dry on kitchen paper. Meanwhile, pre-heat about 8cm of oil to 160-180ºC/320-360ºF in a deep-fat fryer or heavy-based saucepan.

Make the salad by mixing the carrots with the spring onions, chilli sauce, rice vinegar and coriander, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Dip the pieces of soft-shell crab in the batter and fry them, a few pieces at a time, for 2-3 minutes until crisp, then drain on kitchen paper.

Pile the carrot salad on plates with the soft-shell crab and serve immediately.

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