Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tempura Soft Shell Crab With Citrus Gastrique

Everyone has his or her own opinion on when summer starts. For me, it’s when I see soft-shell crabs in the seafood display at the grocery store. Soft-shell crabs are just regular crabs (blue crabs in the U.S.) that have outgrown their shells. They are full of fresh crab flavor without the hassle of dealing with the hard crab shell. Though there are many delicious ways to cook soft shells, my favorite recipe involves breading and frying the crabs, and topping them with a sweet citrus gastrique! The combination of tender crab meat coupled with Asian flavorings is sure to get you in the summer state of mind. 

From the recipes of Suzanne Virgilio

Tempura Soft-shell Crab w/Oriental Salad & Citrus Gastrique

Serves 2 - 4


  • 4 large cleaned soft shells – (Ask your fishmonger to prepare them cleaned for you)
  • 2/3-cup flour
  • 1/2-cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1-cup cold seltzer wate 
  • Oil for frying
Season soft shells with salt & pepper
Combine the next six ingredients in another medium bowl – stir well
Add seltzer water & beaten egg to flour/cornstarch mixture and whisk until smooth

  • 3/4-cup soy sauce
  • 1/2-cup sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup Asian Chili garlic sauce or to taste
Combine all ingredients and stir well

Oriental Salad

  • 1 lb angel hair pasta, cooked a la dente and tossed w/ olive oil
  • 1 julienned red pepper
  • 1 julienned yellow or orange pepper
  • 1-cup julienned Napa cabbage
  • 2 cups steamed broccoli florets
  • 1 bunch sliced scallions
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro – chopped  - additional for garnish
  • 1/2 cup salted peanuts (optional) – additional for garnish
Toss vegetables with pasta and top with dressing – toss until well combined


Definition of a Gastrique: In plain terms, a gastrique is a sweet-and-sour sauce at its simplest. You caramelize sugar (or sometimes honey), combine it with equal parts vinegar, and reduce it slightly to make a tart, slightly thickened syrup. (Definition from

  • 1-cup sugar
  • 1/2-cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat over medium flame, stir occasionally and bring to a simmer.  Continue to heat until all sugar is dissolved and mixture is clear. 

Remove from heat and pour into a heatproof pitcher.


Heat oil until almost smoking.

While oil is heating dip softshell into tempura batter, shaking off any excess.

First, carefully holding the top of the softshell, drag the legs thorough the oil first, for 1 minute.  This will allow the individual legs to fry separately instead of together.  Then lay the softshell top side down, into the oil.  Fry 2-3 minutes or until golden.  Flip the softshell over and continue frying for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Remove from the fryer and allow draining on paper towel
To serve -  mound the salad into the center of a platter. 

Arrange the softshell around the salad.

Drizzle the gastrique over the entire platter

Garnish with additional chopped peanuts and chopped cilantro.

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