Asian crab salad with betel leaves

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4 as a main meal, or 8 as an entre

Crab is a real delicacy and a special treat, partly because so much effort goes into extracting the beautiful sweet white flesh. The best way to involve your mates in cooking is to let them get their hands dirty in preparation and this recipe is perfect — it’s always worth getting a spare pair of hands in to help with the crab.

Dispatch the crab humanely (see note). Drop the crabs into a large saucepan of salted boiling water over high heat. Once the water returns to the boil, cook for 10 minutes, then remove the crabs and immediately refresh them in iced water. Break open the shells using the back of a large knife or a crab cracker.

Remove the crabmeat, shredding the meat slightly with your fingers. Make sure you remove any bits of shell or cartilage from the meat. Refrigerate until needed.

Whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, peanut oil, sugar and bird’s eye chilli. Check the seasoning. You want salty, spicy, sour and sweet, adjust with any of the above ingredients to get it just right. Set aside until needed.

Place the crabmeat, red chilli, carrot, shallots, bean sprouts, mint leaves, coriander leaves, kaffir lime leaves and roasted peanuts into a large stainless steel bowl and toss gently together with the dressing. Lay out the betel leaves on a serving dish and spoon the crab salad onto the centre of the leaves, then garnish with the reserved shredded kaffir lime leaves, and the extra chilli and crushed peanuts.


2 live spanner crabs (about
350 g/12 oz cooked, picked meat)
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon peanut oil
11/2 teaspoons caster (superfine) sugar
1 bird’s eye chilli, sliced
1 long red chilli, halved, seeded and thinly sliced, plus extra

To serve
1 carrot, julienned
2 red Asian shallots, thinly sliced
60 g (2. oz/1/2 cup) bean sprouts
1 cup (firmly packed) small mint leaves
1 cup (firmly packed) small coriander (cilantro) leaves
2 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded, reserving some for garnish
21/2 tablespoons roasted peanuts, crushed, plus extra, to serve small, young betel leaves (or perilla leaves) (see note), to serve

- Best practice for humanely dispatching a crab is to place the live crab in the freezer for approximately 45 minutes until it is asleep. Make sure you haven’t frozen the flesh, but the crab should no longer be moving. Once chilled, the crab should be dispatched quickly by either immediately placing it into rapidly boiling water (as in this recipe) or by sectioning the crab with a sharp knife or cleaver.
- Betel leaves are dark green, glossy, heart-shaped leaves and can be found at Asian grocers. Look for medium to small leaves, rather than the larger ones which can tend to be tough. Perilla leaves are large fragrant leaves that are dark green and purple in colour. They’re also known as shiso leaves in Japanese cooking.