Deep-fried soft shell crab with som tum

Deep-fried soft shell crab with som tum

Have You Eaten
Billy Law

Soft shell crabs are crabs that have moulted from their old shells and are still soft. There is very little cleaning needed, except to remove the feathery gills, also known as dead man’s fingers. There is simply no better way to cook soft shell crab than deep-frying it and eating it whole! A spicy and tangy salad like som tum (green papaya salad) is the perfect accompaniment for crab or any deep-fried food, as its tartness cuts through the fat like a samurai sword.


Quantity Ingredient
4 soft shell crabs
155g potato starch
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 egg, beaten
vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Som tum

Quantity Ingredient
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 bird’s eye chillies
1 teaspoon dried shrimp, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes then drained
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon grated palm sugar
2 snake beans, cut into 5 cm lengths
450g green papaya, peeled and shredded
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
35g peanuts, toasted and roughly chopped


  1. To make the som tum, pound the garlic and chillies in a mortar and pestle until crushed, then add the dried shrimp and pound until softened. Add the lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the beans, green papaya and tomatoes, and pound gently just to bruise and soften the vegetables. Have a taste and adjust the flavour of the salad according to your liking — there should be a balance of sweet, sour, spicy and a little bit of salty. Finally, add the toasted peanuts and mix well.
  2. To clean the soft shell crabs, pull the little flap on the underside off and remove all the guts inside. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, trim the head off to remove the eyes and the mouth, which can taste bitter. Flip one side of the shell over without removing it, then pull off the feathery gills underneath, then repeat the same on the other side. Rinse and pat dry with paper towel.
  3. Cut each crab in half. Combine the potato starch, salt and white pepper in a bowl, and the beaten egg in another. Dip each crab piece in egg, then dredge in the potato starch until well coated, shaking off any excess.
  4. Pour the oil into a large saucepan until about half full, then heat the oil to 180°C over medium–high heat. Test to see if the oil is hot enough by dipping a wooden chopstick into the hot oil — if the oil starts steadily bubbling around the chopstick, it’s ready. Deep-fry the crab in batches until crispy and golden brown, then drain on paper towel. Divide the salad among 4 plates and top each with 2 pieces of soft shell crab.
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