Fresh Soft Shell Crabs

In the spring, my wife and I love to drive to Maryland and stop at Cantlers Riverside Inn, http://www.cantlers.com/index.shtml for fresh blue crabs and soft shell crabs. Jimmy Cantler, the owner and founder, is a native Marylander and worked as a waterman on the Chesapeake bay and in 1974 he started a restaurant dedicated to serving fresh seafood. We sit out side on the picnic tables with brown paper tablecloths, buckets of ice cold beer, old bay steamed blue crabs and plates of crisp fried soft shell crabs.

As crabs grow larger, their shells cannot expand, so they molt their exteriors and have a soft covering for a couple of days when they are vulnerable and considered usable. Normally the crabs must be eaten within four days of molting to be useful as soft-shell crabs. The molting is highly seasonal and usually lasts from early May to July.


Traditionally, soft shell crabs are battered and then fried or sauteed and served with a brown butter. Today I have decided to tempura fry the crabs and serve with an Asian salad and Thia vinaigrette. I started with fresh living or hydro watercress. I trimmed the stems off and washed the leaves!

Take a couple of red and yellow peppers, trim the ends off and slice very thin.

Wash the bok choy and slice thin.

Toss the salad ingredients together with the Thai vinaigrette.

Thai vinaigrette:

1/2 Tablespoon sesame oil

1 Tablespoon peeled and grated ginger

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 Thai chili remove seeds and stems, chop

1/8 cup Hoison sauce

2 teaspoons red miso

1 cup olive oil

blend all ingredients in blender.

Clean the soft shells by cutting out the gills, remove the back flap and cut the face off. Make the tempura batter.

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup of cornstarch

1/2 tablespoon of baking soda

1/2 Tablespoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 3/4 cup ice water

Mix the dry ingredients and then whip in the ice water. The amount of ice water may differ so only add 1 cup and then slowly add the rest if needed.

Season the crab with salt and pepper, dip in the tempura batter and fry.

Place the crisp soft shell on the plate with the salad!



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