Crab Fritters with Three Dipping Sauces

Forget crab cakes; these fritters, made with a choux paste (similar to the base you’d use for cream puffs, éclairs, or gougères), are light and airy rather than heavy. But don’t expect to serve them at a sit-down dinner; in fact, they shouldn’t even make it out of your kitchen. You’ll want to eat them immediately. You can make these with chopped shrimp, chopped scallops, or chopped fish, as well. At the restaurants, we serve these with three sauces. Do what you like at home; they’re great with just a squeeze of lemon juice. (If I had to pick one sauce to serve with these, it would be the green papaya rémoulade.)

Makes4 servings

Cooking Methodfrying


Total Timea day or more

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionFormal Dinner Party

Recipe Coursehot appetizer

Equipmentfood mill

Five Ingredients or LessYes



Taste and Texturecrisp, hot & spicy, rich, umami


  • ½ cup diced green papaya
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup creme fraiche
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1½ tablespoons rice vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon hazelnut oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh red Thai chile
  • One ½-pound package tamarind paste
  • 1 garlic clove, very finely minced, almost to a purée
  • 1 fresh red Thai chile, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
  • 8 ounces crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery seed
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • Grape seed, corn, or other neutral oil for frying
  • Fleur de sel, celery salt, or coarse salt


  1. To make the rémoulade: Toss the papaya with the lime juice in a small container, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the papaya and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  3. To make the mignonette: Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl with 2½ tablespoons water until very well blended.

  4. To make the ketchup: Put the tamarind paste in a saucepan with ½ cup water and turn the heat to medium. Cook, whisking lightly to break up the lumps, and add more water whenever the mixture becomes dry until you’ve added a total of about 1 cup. The process will take about 10 minutes and the result should still be quite thick, but fairly smooth.

  5. Pass the tamarind through a food mill into a bowl or purée in a blender; you will have about ½ cup of smooth pulp. Add the remaining ingredients and set aside for an hour; the flavor will grow during that period. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

  6. To make the fritters: In a bowl, season the crab with the celery seed, salt, and cayenne to taste. Stir lightly, then set aside.

  7. Put the butter and ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. As soon as the butter completely melts and the mixture simmers, stir in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until the flour forms a ball around the spoon and no longer sticks to the bottom of the pan. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture cools. Add the eggs, one at a time, with the machine running. Continue mixing until the dough is well combined and thickened. Fold in the crab mixture until well incorporated.

  8. Pour oil to a depth of ½ inch in a large skillet and set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, about 350°F, scoop a spoonful of the crab mixture and carefully push it off with your finger into the skillet. Do not try to press the mixture together; it should have a shreddy consistency. Cook the fritter until nicely browned and crisp, then turn and cook the other side until golden and crisp. Remove it from the oil and drain on paper towels. Repeat this process with the remaining crab. You can make more than one fritter at a time, but do not overcrowd the skillet; work in batches if necessary.

  9. Season the fritters with fleur de sel and serve with the green papaya rémoulade, soy and chile mignonette, and tamarind ketchup.


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