Red curry crab cakes

A few weeks ago, I impulse-bought a couple tubs of Thai curry paste. Since then, it’s been curry central in this household. I love how these pastes provide deep flavor and powerful heat, without any work involved: no chopping, no mashing, no nothing. If you have Thai curry paste in the fridge, coconut milk and rice in the pantry, maybe some fish sauce and limes, you can follow the recipe on the label and turn pretty much any combination of protein and veggies into a quick and powerful meal. But even beyond that, I’ve found these pastes are terrific for everything from dumplings to lentil soup to a simple coconut sauce for fish or chicken (which I’ll get around to posting sometime soon).

I bought two kinds of curry paste: red and green. The red curry is a bit sharper and tangier, while the green curry is rich and deep and slightly sweet. I actually like the green better for straight-up curry, but the red has proven to be a bit more versatile overall. When I learned that red curry paste is a key ingredient in Thai fish cakes, it was only a matter of time before I tried it in one of my favorite seafood dishes of all time: crab cakes.

This is a total mash-up recipe, in the best way. These little nibbles have all the flavors of Thai fish cakes–red curry, green beans, scallions, fish sauce, lime–with the texture of an all-American crab cake. Unlike the Thai version, which requires a food processor and deep-frying, these can be made in a matter of minutes in just one bowl, with minimal mess and less fuss. The crab mixture benefits from a little time in the fridge before cooking, but it’s really not necessary. I can–and have–made these on a whim for Sunday lunch, in 20 minutes or less. They’re terrific that way.

How big or small you make these is totally up to you. I go for a sort of middle ground and make 8 smallish cakes, which I think are ideal for an at-home appetizer or light lunch. You could make 4 giant cakes, or 16 itty-bitty cakes to serve as a party snack. If you go bigger, I’d suggest covering the skillet while the cakes cook, so that they heat through by the time they’ve browned.

red curry crab cakes

Red Curry Crab Cakes (serves 2 as an entree, or 4 as an appetizer)

Note: If you’re mixing by hand, I recommend wearing a latex or vinyl glove. The curry paste is spicy, and it can burn just like hot peppers do. (Ask me how I know this.)

8 oz lump crab meat, picked over for shell fragments

1/2 cup fresh (homemade) breadcrumbs OR 1/4 cup dried (storebought) breadcrumbs

1/4 cup thinly sliced green beans

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1-2 tsp Thai red curry paste, to taste (I use Mae Ploy brand)

1 tsp fish sauce, or to taste

Zest and juice of 1 lime

1 large egg

2 tbsp peanut, canola, or vegetable oil, or as needed

Thai sweet chili sauce for dipping (optional)

In a medium mixing bowl, combine crab meat, breadcrumbs, green beans, scallions, curry paste, fish sauce, and lime zest. Mix to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then add egg and mix thoroughly. If time permits, cover and refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes to 1 hour to firm up a bit.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Divide the crab mixture into the size portions you want, and shape each portion into a patty. Fry the patties in batches if needed, flipping them once, until they’re golden on both sides and heated through. Serve immediately with Thai sweet chili sauce (if desired).

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