To prepare curry, combine first 6 ingredients in a food processor; process 3 minutes or until a paste forms.
Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chile mixture; sauté 3 minutes. Add bell pepper and next 5 ingredients (bell pepper through coconut milk); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in lime juice and 1 teaspoon salt, and keep warm.
To prepare crabs, combine cornstarch and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a shallow dish. Dredge crabs in cornstarch mixture.
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place 3 crabs in pan, top sides down; cook 3 minutes, gently pressing body and legs against pan. Turn crabs; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Repeat procedure with remaining oil and crabs.
Place 1/2 cup jasmine rice into each of 6 shallow bowls; spoon 3/4 cup curry mixture over each serving. Top each serving with 1 crab. Garnish with lime wedges and cilantro sprigs, if desired.
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This recipe is flavorful but it has limitations. I give it a 4 out of 5 on innate flavor, but it is not colorful or Thai at all. I have lived in Thailand for 2 years in the past, and I have to say that the recipe is "Faux" Thai. Although all of the ingredients are easily accessible in North America, it does not approach some of the soft shell crab curry dishes I have eaten in Thailand. I would recommend the substitution of Thai chiles for the Serrano chiles and also the use of Asian fish sauce instead of salt. Thai eggplant, available in the US, could also substitute for the Japanese eggplant. I would recommend the addition of lemongrass to the recipe. But it would still be "Faux Thai"!
Just made this for Mother's Day with the crab and it was amazing. I couldn't find Serano Chiles so I used two Habeneros and it was perfectly spicy. The Japanese Eggplant was delicious. Great combination of flavors.
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