Inspired by both the Cantonese dish of crabs sautéed with scallions and ginger, and Vietnamese banh mi, these oversized soft-shell crab sandwiches feature lightly toasted soft baguettes packed with three crisp sautéed soft-shell crabs each, along with ginger-chili mayo, quick-pickled carrots and cucumbers, fresh scallions, and cilantro.
Why this recipe works:
- Dredging the crabs in cornstarch and sautéeing them in neutral oil results in crabs with a crisp, shattering shell and clean flavor.
- Quick-pickling the carrots and cucumbers in seasoned rice vinegar adds just enough tang while not requiring a lengthy pickling time.
Note: While the pickles are ready in just 25 minutes, they can also be refrigerated overnight before using.
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks
- 1 medium cucumber, seeds removed, split lengthwise into 1/4-inch spears
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sambal oelek, Sriracha, or other chili paste
- 1 (1-inch) piece fresh peeled ginger, finely grated on microplane
- 1 medium garlic clove, finely grated on microplane
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 6 large soft-shell crabs, preferably jumbo or "whale" size, cleaned
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 Vietnamese-style baguettes, split and lightly toasted, or 1 French baguette, halved, split, and lightly toasted
- 2 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced lengthwise
- Cilantro leaves and fine stems from 1 bunch, for serving
Combine carrot, cucumber, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Using fingertips, massage salt and sugar into vegetables until dissolved. Add rice vinegar and water and let stand for at least 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, thoroughly mix together mayonnaise, chili paste, ginger, and garlic. Season with salt.
In a shallow bowl, stir together cornstarch with a pinch of salt. Lightly dredge crabs in the seasoned cornstarch.
In a large, wide skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add crabs, shell-side down, and cook until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes; be careful, as soft-shell crabs sometimes pop in the pan. Flip crabs and cook until golden and crisp on bottom side, about 3 minutes. Transfer crabs to paper-towel-lined plates.
Drain carrot and cucumber. Spread top and bottom halves of baguettes with ginger-chili mayonnaise. Arrange 3 crabs on each of the bottom halves and top with scallions and pickled carrot and cucumber. Top with cilantro sprigs, close sandwiches, and serve immediately.