Ming Tsai’s idea, that is. It was his inspiration to use King Crab in his Thai Papaya Crab dish. Actually, it’s a practical, if somewhat expensive, solution to a serving problem. See, using a smaller, more “local” variety of crab would have required much more work to extract the prize.
Not so with King Crab. Those gigantic legs, split lengthwise before cooking, make it much easier for the diner to enjoy the crab’s sweet, slightly briny, magnificence. It’s an especially memorable experience when the delectable shellfish has been simmered in a fragrant, flavorful mixture of Thai chilies, fresh lime juice, papaya and ginger.
Of course, in keeping with Ming Tsai’s penchant for fusion cuisine, the recipe also calls for adding sauvignon blanc and a dollop of butter. These may rob the dish of perfect authenticity, but they contribute a richness and a warmth that make this a satisfying meal for cooler temperatures.
Papaya’s sweetness is subtle enough that it compliments the crab rather than competes with it. The bird chilies introduce a heat that contrasts nicely with the other flavors. There’s something about peppers that brings out the best in their partners, even when their influence isn’t immediately noticeable. This dish is a perfect example of that quality. While they aren’t appreciably spicy, the peppers nudge the other flavors into high gear.
When I first saw this recipe on Ming Tsai’s PBS cooking show Simply Ming, it inspired me. Of course, I worried I wouldn’t remember all the ingredients, but fortunately a little research located the recipe here, on Ming Tsai’s site.
As mentioned, the King Crab is pricy, but it makes for a delicious meal. Plus, you always may substitute another more accessible variety of crab (or even sea legs!). It may not be quite the same, but it still will be wonderfully satisfying, especially when paired with all these other great ingredients.
Wok-Stirred Thai Norwegian King Crab Legs with Green Papaya (*1)
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 3 Norwegian King Crab legs, cut in half lengthwise, in shell (*2)
- 4 medium shallots, sliced thinly (about 1 cup, sliced) (*3)
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons ginger, julienned
- 12 Thai bird chilies, dried (*4)
- 2 tablespoons That fish sauce
- 1 cup chicken stock
- juice from one lime
- 1 green papaya, julienned (*5)
- 1/2 cup Sauvignon Blanc
- 1/4 unsalted butter (*6)
In a large wok, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the shallots, chilies and ginger. Stir until the chilies just start to blacken.
Add the crab, fish sauce, chicken stock, wine and lime juice. Stir, cover, and allow to cook for six minutes.
Take off the lid and add the papaya and butter. Stir and allow to cook until the butter has melted completely. Plate and serve.
1 – Full disclosure, the original recipe calls for frying crispy rice cakes and crumbling them over the dish at the end. I couldn’t find crispy rice cakes anywhere, so I skipped that part. It turned out really well despite the omission.
2 – I used Alaskan King Crab legs, not Norwegian; it didn’t make a difference.
3 – No substitution, for once. It’s nice finding a recipe in which I didn’t have to substitute shallots for onions!
4 – If you can’t find bird chilies, any moderately hot variety such as jalapenos or serranos would do nicely; it’s not even important they be dried, as everything is stir-fried anyway.
5 – The papaya was a little too ripe (and hence, soft) to julienne on the mandolin, so I ended up cutting it into thin strips with a knife.
6 – By this, Tsai means 1/4 of a stick. That’s about how much he added when he prepared the dish on television. I only added about half that (i.e., a eighth of a stick). Healthier that way, and still savory.