Soft shell crabs are one of those items we can’t help but order when we’re eating out, but rarely consider actually preparing at home. But as long as you let your fishmonger do the cleaning, believe it or not, they’re a total cinch to cook (seriously, they take minutes!). Which will leave you plenty of time to prepare a sprightly, summery, coconut-rich curry; fantastically delicious when poured over the top of this super seasonal dish. You can even double, triple or quadruple the recipe, and store the sauce in the freezer, so you can seamlessly replicate this deceptively easy dish (minus the seasonal soft shells) all season long!
For the Curry:
2 cups of fresh cilantro sprigs
1/2 cup of coarsely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon of grated lime rind
8 to 12 serrano chiles, seeded
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 teaspoon of vegetable oil
2 cups sliced red bell pepper
1 1/2 cups of water
1/2 cup of shredded green papaya
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon of salt
For the Crab:
1/4 cup of cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon of salt
6 soft-shell crabs, cleaned
4 teaspoons of vegetable oil, divided
Lime wedges and cilantro springs for garnish
For the Curry: Combine first 6 ingredients in a food processor; process 3 minutes or until a paste forms.
Heat 1 teaspoon oil in sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add chile mixture and sauté for 3 minutes. Add bell pepper and next 5 ingredients (bell pepper through coconut milk) and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in lime juice and 1 teaspoon salt, and keep warm.
For the Crab: Combine cornstarch and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a shallow dish. Dredge crabs in cornstarch mixture. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place 3 crabs in pan, top sides down; cook 3 minutes, gently pressing body and legs against pan. Turn crabs; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Repeat procedure with remaining oil and crabs.
Divide crabs amongst shallow bowls, and spoon over curry mixture. Garnish with lime wedges and cilantro sprigs and serve.