Crispy Soft-Shell Crabs with Pea Shoots & Orange-Sesame Emulsion


They’re baaack! Soft-shell crabs are back and the first taste of the season was phenomenal. They are so succulent and juicy they seem to be a tiny piece of the ocean itself. In this recipe i matched them with another spring staple – pea shoots simply saute  in olive oil and garlic and a reduction of orange juice emulsified with rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. If you have a lot of imagination you can think of it as a refined version of General Tso chicken. Or should i say Admiral Tso in this case?

The sweet and subtle briny flavor of fresh blue crab is truly the star of the show here. Legend has it that blue crabs, like the ocean, are influenced by the phases of the moon. In their natural environment, blue crabs begin shedding their outgrown shells on the first full moon of May to become – soft-shell crab. Legend got it wrong this time. Those were cooked on the last full moon of April. Must be global warming or something.

I need to talk to Al Gore about all this.

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This dish is salty and sweet, crunchy and soft and deeply, deeply satisfying. The best part? It can be put together in a very short time. Go ahead, start hunting for those soft shell crabs. The season has just begun.

  • Crispy Soft-Shell Crabs with Pea Shoots & Orange-Sesame Emulsion

  • serves 4
  • soft-shell-crabs-w-orange-sesame-emulsion-6
    • For the crispy soft-shell crabs:
    • 8 soft-shell crabs (ask your fishmonger to clean them for you)
    • 3/4 cup milk
    • 3/4 cup flour
    • salt and pepper
    • canola or peanut oil for frying
    • black and white sesame seeds for garnish
    • For the orange-sesame emulsion & pea shoots:
    • 3/4 cup orange juice
    • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
    • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
    • 1 lb fresh pea shoots, cleaned
    • olive oil
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • For the crispy soft-shell crabs:
    • Place the flour and milk in two separate bowls. Season the flour with salt and pepper.
    • Heat the oil to 350’F in a fryer or a deep stock pot. Dip 2 or 3 soft-shell crabs at the time in milk, then into the flour making sure to coat them well. Fry them 3 at the time for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towel. Serve immediately with the sautee pea shoots and orange-sesame emulsion. Garnish with black and white sesame seeds.
    • For the orange-sesame emulsion and pea shoots:
    • Reduce the orange juice in a small saucepan until you have about 1/4 cup left. Let it cool. Whisk in the rice wine vinegar and slowly add the sesame oil and grapeseed oil to create an emulsion. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    • Saute the pea shoots in olive oil with garlic until wilted, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
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  • hjli

    Drool. What a perfectly fried soft-shell crab.

  • bunkycooks

    Oh, my! This looks incredible! My hubby just had a soft-shell crab salad the other evening at a Japanese restaurant. He said it was delicious, but I bet if I make this, I will top that dish! I always enjoy seeing your innovative recipes and beautiful pictures.

  • Ginny

    sigh… :) so yummmy…

  • Liren

    I love everything about this dish – the seasonal timing, the tender pea shoots, and the delectable soft shell crab! I can just imagine how wonderful this tastes! I’ll be on the lookout for these ingredients and hope to make this soon!

  • Julia

    I love, love, love soft shell crabs, and this looks fabulous! I see this in my future

  • roxan

    My husband loves soft shell crab, hopefully we’ll come across some so we can try this recipe.

  • Koko

    I absolutely adore soft shelled crab, this looks fantastic.

  • Cookin’ Canuck

    Gorgeous! How I love soft shell crabs and I can’t wait to get my hands on some again. It looks as though you really did them justice with this recipe.

  • Haumea

    You inspire me and love your dishes. I will make this when I get home this weekend.

  • nina

    That is one awesome creation Zenman….I hve never had a softshell crab before….

  • Eddie@CulinaryStudio

    So glad it’s once again soft-shell crab season. Your dish looks great.

  • JD

    Ive never had this dish with any form of citrus topping. Sounds and looks delicious!

  • Cookie

    Soft-shell crab is my favorite seafood ever! I’ve never even thought of making my own but can’t wait to try this!

  • Marc @ NoRecipes

    Nice! Love your interpretation. Where do you get them? I’ve never gotten SSCs fresh before.

  • Sommer

    Ahhhh, soft shell crabs! Can’t get enough of them. The orange-sesame emulsion sounds divine!

  • Carolyn Jung

    I enjoy fried soft shell crabs at many a restaurant. Have never dared to fry them up myself at home. But this dish looks so good, I’m tempted to finally give it a whirl.

  • jared

    ahh crab is my favorite food group. maybe i should make this and call it admiral zhao’s crab. now i am off t hunt me some soft shell crab.

  • Dudut_99

    I sell Soft Shell Crabs!

  • dedy oktavianus

    Nice and crisp….
    i like to add some salted egg yolk too to the batter, make some kick’in savoury taste