Cook the Book: Garlic and Black Pepper Soft-Shell Crabs

Cook the Book: Garlic and Black Pepper Soft-Shell Crabs

[Photographs: John Kernick]

When thinking about springtime eating it's usually the vegetables that get the most attention. But spring is also a time for sea-sonal specialties—the ones from the sea, namely soft-shell crabs. Having spotted them on a few menus around town lately, I decided to try frying up a few of these molted blue crabs for myself.

These Garlic and Black Pepper Soft-Shell Crabs from Andrea Reusing's Cooking in the Moment get briefly dunked in fish sauce, coated in garlic and pepper-spiked rice flour, and fried until crackling crisp. Opting for rice flour instead of wheat flour gives these crabs an almost potato chip like crunch, and the fish sauce lends just the right amount of savory, oceanic tang.

Since they are such a precious, seasonal commodity, most places treat them very delicately. But this big flavor, big crunch treatment made it clear that soft-shells don't have to be handled with kid gloves—they're best when tackled like their hard-shell cousins. Fry up a big batch, lay them out on newspaper and dig in.

Adapted from Cooking in the Moment by Andrea Reusing. Copyright © 2011. Published by Clarkson Potter. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

  • Yield:4
  • Active time: 30 minutes
  • Total time:30 minutes


  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 3 cups rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup minced garlic
  • ½ cup fish sauce
  • 8 large soft-shell crabs, preferably jumbo or “whale” size, dressed and cut in half crosswise


  1. 1.

    Fill a deep, heavy pot with a lid about one-third full with oil, and heat it until a deep-fat thermometer reads 375°F.

  2. 2.

    In the meantime, combine the rice flour, salt, pepper, and garlic in a medium bowl. Put the fish sauce in a small bowl. Dip each piece of crab very briefly into the fish sauce, gently shaking off excess, and then into the rice flour mix. Roll the crab over and shake off any extra flour. Set aside. Repeat this process, until all the crab halves are dredged.

  3. 3.

    When the oil reaches 375°F, gently lay the crabs, top side down, in the oil. Don’t crowd the pot—if necessary, fry them in batches—and use the lid as needed when the crabs are first added to the oil to avoid splattering. After 1 to 2 minutes, when the crabs are golden brown, turn them over and cook for another 2 minutes. Drain on clean brown paper bags and eat hot.