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Chinese Soft Shell Crab

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

Soft Shell Crab in pan with green vegetables
Chinese Soft Shell Crab

Beneath the neon-lit labyrinth of Hong Kong's bustling streets lies a hidden culinary universe that beckons the intrepid explorer to venture forth. Just as many before us, we embark on a journey that reveals the soul of a city through its food. Our destination: a nondescript alleyway, where the scent of sizzling spices intermingles with the whispers of generations past. Here, we unveil a dish that captures the essence of this enigmatic city: Chinese Soft Shell Crab.

Serves: 4 Preparation Time: 45 minutes


- 8 soft shell crabs, cleaned and rinsed

- 1 cup cornstarch

- 1 cup all-purpose flour

- 1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder

- 1 teaspoon white pepper

- 1 teaspoon salt

- 2 cups vegetable oil, for frying

- 4 cloves garlic, minced

- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

- 2 red chilli peppers, sliced

- 2 green onions, sliced diagonally

- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine)

- 1 tablespoon soy sauce

- 1 teaspoon sesame oil

- Lime wedges, for serving


1. Prepare the Crabs:

- Rinse the soft shell crabs under cold water and pat them dry with paper towels.

- In a shallow bowl, mix together the cornstarch, all-purpose flour, Chinese five-spice powder, white pepper, and salt.

- Dredge each crab in the flour mixture, ensuring they're well-coated. Shake off any excess flour.

2. Fry the Crabs:

- In a large wok or skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F (175°C).

- Carefully place the coated crabs into the hot oil, frying them in batches to avoid overcrowding. Fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until they turn golden brown and crispy.

- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fried crabs to a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil.

3. Create the Flavour Base:

- In a separate wok or skillet, heat a small amount of vegetable oil over medium heat.

- Add the minced garlic, ginger, and sliced red chilli peppers. Sauté for about 1 minute until fragrant.

4. Add the Crabs:

- Pour in the Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil into the wok with the garlic, ginger, and chilli peppers.

- Gently toss the fried crabs in the flavourful mixture, ensuring they're well coated.

5. Final Touches:

- Sprinkle the sliced green onions over the crabs and give them a final toss in the wok.

- Serve the Chinese Soft Shell Crab hot, garnished with lime wedges for that zesty kick.

Suggested Side Dishes:

- Steamed Jasmine Rice

- Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy

- Quick-Pickled Cucumber Salad

Equipment Needed:

- Wok or large skillet

- Thermometer for monitoring oil temperature

- Slotted spoon

- Paper towels for draining

Common Mistakes and Points of Care:

- Oil Temperature: Ensure the frying oil is at the correct temperature (350°F/175°C). Too low, and the crabs will absorb excess oil; too high, and they might burn before cooking through.

- Overcrowding: Fry the crabs in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, which can lead to uneven frying.

- Crispiness: Achieve the perfect crispiness by making sure the crabs are well-coated with the flour mixture and fried until golden brown.

- Flavour Balance: Be cautious with the amount of salt and soy sauce to maintain a balanced flavour profile, as crabs are naturally delicate in taste.

- Handling Chilli Peppers: When handling chilli peppers, be careful not to touch your face or eyes, as the oils can cause irritation.

Embark on this sensory odyssey of flavours and textures, where the soft shell crab emerges as the star of the Shanghai culinary scene, telling tales of tradition and innovation with each crunchy bite.

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