Sunday April 27, 2014
10:31 AM GMT+8

Advertisement

More stories

Fresh from the pasar malam: cili padi, lime and shallots (left). Combine the crabmeat with panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), one beaten egg, shallots, cili padi, and the juice and zest of a lime (right) — Pictures by CK LimFresh from the pasar malam: cili padi, lime and shallots (left). Combine the crabmeat with panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), one beaten egg, shallots, cili padi, and the juice and zest of a lime (right) — Pictures by CK LimKUALA LUMPUR, April 27 — It all started with a can of crabmeat.

My trusty companion CK had returned from England with the dregs of a week of company training and living alone — a few packets of salted pork crackling, a bottle of black pepper, some Cadbury chocolate (how very English!) and a can of crabmeat. Now the first three items are easily dispatched either as snacks or seasoning, but what were we to do with the compacted crustacean flesh?

We could attempt a seafood linguine, I suppose, but that would entail shrimp, rings of squid, tiny clams, mussels and an assortment of other shellfish in addition to the crabmeat. Something worthy of a Corsican fisherman. Too much work.

How about a crabmeat casserole, smothered with a can of mushroom cream soup and Ritz crackers, the way a Midwestern housewife from the 1950s would make it? Of course, watch enough American TV and casseroles remind one of microwaveable meals to ensnare freshly-minted widowers. No casseroles then.

Perhaps our ideas are too far-flung. Instead of Italy or America, why not couldn’t we muster up something more regional? A quick glance into our larder, and we have an abundance of Asian ingredients waiting to be employed in a truly Asian recipe. (Hopefully more fusion than confusion though.)

The dipping sauce has both Japanese and Thai influences (left). Form the crab cake mixture into small balls (right)The dipping sauce has both Japanese and Thai influences (left). Form the crab cake mixture into small balls (right)There are some shichimi togarashi (seven spice powder), panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), mayonaise (the Japanese variety, made with egg yolks and apple cider vinegar) and a tube of wasabi from Tokyo. We could make phrik nam pla, the quintessential Thai dipping sauce from some Thai fish sauce, lime juice and sliced bird’s eye chilies (cili padi).

From the local pasar malam, we still have some shallots, a solitary mango (still not quite ripe though) and kampong chicken eggs. This could be a meal, if only we can figure out how to make it all work together.

Consider the tale of the stone soup. A vagrant passes by a cottage where a miserly old person (sometimes a man, sometimes a woman; fables and fairy tales being genuinely gender-bending affairs depending on the storyteller), and asks for some water to make some soup. Stone soup, that is.

Intrigued, the miser supplies the water and observes closely. Of course, the stone soup would taste better with a little salt. The miser has just that. Some pepper for the pot, maybe? That too. A potato, a small one, for heft. A parsnip, a carrot, a pair of turnips: none of this would go awry. The miser ends up emptying the entire larder into the pot and declares the resultant stone soup delicious and miraculous.

Dip the crab cake balls in beaten egg and then more breadcrumbs before frying (left). Rest the golden brown crab cakes on paper towels to soak up excess oil (right)Dip the crab cake balls in beaten egg and then more breadcrumbs before frying (left). Rest the golden brown crab cakes on paper towels to soak up excess oil (right)Well, sometimes all one needs for a miracle is a little creativity, agree?

In the end, we decide the can of crabmeat would be best utilised in the making of bite-sized crab cakes. Mix the crabmeat with beaten eggs and bread crumbs, roll them into small balls, and flatten them when frying in the pan; what could be simpler?

Ah, but add a dash of freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to the mixture, some finely sliced cili padi and shallots too, and you lend quite a kick to the proceedings. The juice and zest of a lime to balance the spiciness with some tangy zing, and we end up with crispy yet fluffy crab cakes.

Why stop there? A dip made with lime juice, Japanese mayonaise, wasabi, Thai fish sauce and more cili padi wouldn’t go amiss. A refreshing side salad of julienned raw mango tossed with shallots, cili padi (I confess: we bought a lot), lime juice and zest (ditto) completes the meal.

One doesn’t need to leave one’s home to travel around the globe; cooking can be that journey and what an incredible one it is! How else does one blend inspiration from Thailand, spice and seasoning from Japan and fresh produce from Malaysia into a cohesive whole, much less an edible dish?

All it takes is perhaps a can of crabmeat or a kilo of cili padi (and the motivation to finish them before they spoil), and the open mind (and palate) to consider the endless possibilities. No soup stone required.

Spicy crab cakes with wasabi-mayo dip & Thai-style mango salad

There really is no reason not to mix-and-match ideas from different cultures when it comes to food. Here we have Malaysian, Japanese and Thai flavours mingling in harmony. Purists may find fusion recipes blasphemy but I find them a creative avenue to experiment. The thing to remember is to use the freshest ingredients possible to ensure you get the maximum shot of flavour from them.

Dunk each crab cake into the dipping sauce to get an explosion of different flavours (left). Serve the crab cakes with a Thai-style green mango salad (right)Dunk each crab cake into the dipping sauce to get an explosion of different flavours (left). Serve the crab cakes with a Thai-style green mango salad (right)Part 1: Spicy crab cakes
1 can crabmeat (approx. 120g)
70g panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 beaten egg
3-4 shallots, sliced
2-3 cili padi, sliced
1 lime, both juice and zest
1-2 tsp shichimi togarashi
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except the breadcrumbs and egg. Shape into small balls. Before frying (using a non-stick pan), dip the balls first into a saucer of beaten egg, then a saucer of more breadcrumbs. When frying, flatten the balls with the spatula so they resemble flat cakes. A couple of minutes on both sides or till the crab cakes are a golden brown will suffice.

Part 2: Wasabi-mayo dip
½ cup Japanese mayonaise
2 tbsp wasabi
1-2 cili padi, sliced
1 tsp fish sauce
½ lime, juice only
1-2 tsp shichimi togarashi
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and serve in saucer. Garnish with a single cili padi (optional).

Part 3: Thai-style green mango salad
1 unripe/green mango, julienned
1-2 shallots, sliced
2-3 cili padi, sliced
1 tsp fish sauce
1 lime, both juice and zest
½ tsp shichimi togarashi
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together and serve chilled.

Yield: Serves 2 for a refreshing Sunday brunch.

For more Weekend Kitchen stories and recipes, visit http://devilstales.com/ weekend-kitchen/

Advertisement

MMO Instagram

Tweets by @themmailonline