Thai crab salad in lettuce cups

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Here's an easy (yet impressive) hors d'oeuvre for a summer party.  We made them for Matt's dad's 70th birthday boat party, and they seemed to go down well.  The pink bubbly and Dorset coast sunset only helped.  We actually made loads of hors d'oeuvres, with the fine help of our nephews - budding chefs Wilf and Oliver - and their parents, so I should be able to send you more of those recipes should party food be of interest - ?

Smthaicrabcups0003a.jpgThis recipe is with thanks to Matt, who managed to remember how we used to make these sweet and aromatic little cups years ago when living in Cambridge.  We probably originally found it in a book or magazine, but can’t remember which.  Each cup is crispy and juicy, cool and refreshing yet with a chilli kick, all in one bite.  Yum. 

So, it turns out I really like restaurant work.  In fact I'm loving it.  I am learning loads every day at Chez Panisse.  For example:  you can never peel too many onions (or shell too many beans); dead lambs are quite heavy, and a bit bloody; you can still cook with blistered, slashed and burnt hands; you need a very big pot to make 6 gallons of soup; a 'bus tub' has nothing to do with buses or bathing; it's surprisingly difficult to keep a chef jacket white; there is very little traffic at 6am, but loads at 6pm; and a tonne more about a spectacular array of fresh ingredients and nifty cooking techniques.  What has struck me most is that good restaurants like this one are phenomenally slick, well-organised, efficient machines staffed by extremely talented and knowledgeable people.  Hopefully some of this will rub off on me.
Recipe:  Thai crab salad in lettuce cups.pdf 

Makes:  30
Time:  30 mins

450g (1 lb) white crabmeat
150 ml (5 fl oz) coconut milk
4 tbsps lime juice, or to taste
2 tbsps Thai fish sauce, or to taste
2 tsps finely minced lemongrass (from inner section of white part)
6 spring onions, white and pale green parts only, finely sliced
3 tsps minced medium-hot to hot red and/or green chillies
4 tbsps minced coriander leaves
30 baby gem lettuce leaves, washed if needed

extra minced chilli, preferably red
30 coriander leaves

  1. Check crabmeat for shell pieces and break up any particularly large pieces.  Set aside.  (Chill until needed.)
  2. Whisk lime juice, fish sauce, lemongrass, spring onions, chillies and minced coriander into coconut milk and set aside.  (Chill until needed.)
  3. When time to serve, toss crabmeat with coconut milk mixture.  You may not need quite all the coconut milk.  The crab salad should be moist but in no way soupy.  Lay lettuce leaves out on serving platter and place a spoonful of crab salad in each.  Garnish each with a few pieces of minced red chilli and a coriander leaf.  Serve immediately.
Pick up some sweet crab facts here...

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Culinary Anthropologist