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What Are Thai Crab Cakes?

Mayonnaise, which is used in making Thai crab cakes.
Thai crab cakes.
Mung bean sprouts are often used in Thai crab cakes.
Thai crab cakes are made with Panko and lime juice instead of breading and lemon juice.
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  • Written By: Cynde Gregory
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 03 July 2014
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Anyone with a fondness for shellfish is sure to love crab cakes. The type of crab cake most American and European diners are familiar with uses bread crumbs and lemon as the primary flavorings and can be dressed in a tartar or red sauce. Thai crab cakes are becoming increasingly popular in restaurants and kitchens around the world for their surprisingly subtle flavorings and slightly different type of breading. These crab cakes use Japanese breading, called Panko, and favor kaffir lime leaves as well as lime juice instead of lemon.

The home cook who wants to surprise seafood-loving family or guests with Thai crab cakes can use either fresh or canned crab. In addition to the lime accents and Panko, many cooks use fish and oyster sauces to deepen the flavors. A few drops of hot sauce or a pinch of crushed Thai chili add zip.

Another approach uses an egg in addition to the fish sauce to help the ingredients bind and to keep the crab cakes moist. Ginger is always a welcome addition as well as the chopped green tips of scallion. This version sings when cilantro joins the party.

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Fans of curry will find that adding Thai curry paste to the mix heightens flavors. An alternative some cooks prefer is to include curry powder, either a home recipe that combines curry spices such as cumin, turmeric, and coriander or a favorite mixture purchased from the grocery store. If curry powder is used, it’s a good idea to add an egg or even a dollop of mayonnaise to keep the resulting Thai crab cakes sufficiently moist.

A clever way to create crab cakes with a silky texture rather than the chunkier versions familiar to fans of the Maryland version is to run the ingredients through a food processor for a few seconds. These buttery, textured treats delight crab cake enthusiasts by delivering unusual flavor as well as an unexpected texture that seems to melt in the mouth. An added bonus to this approach is blending the ingredients into a paste, which means less filler is needed and more crab flavor comes forth.

Many cooks have discovered that adding mung bean sprouts to crabmeat along with an egg, herbs, and Panko provides additional nutrition while cutting calories. The clever cook combines mint with cilantro to add yet another level of flavor. A sublime peanut sauce spun from a little brown sugar, creamy peanut butter, and a splash of vinegar make this version of Thai crab cakes even better.

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