Crab Casserole in Coconut Milk

Thailand with all her plentiful rivers and lakes, enjoys a bountiful supply of crab and other seafood. Bountiful implies relatively inexpensive and therefore popular, and such is the case. Imaginative Thai cooks have learned many ways to bring out the best of the crab’s succulent and delicate sweet meat, paying special attention to the rich orange roe. The coconut milk is but one of the bracing seasonings in this recipe that so enhance the virtues of the crab. This is a splendid main dish.


  • 1.4–1.7 kg (3–3½ lb) live or freshly cooked crab in the shell
  • 3 stalks fresh lemongrass
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 tablespoons finely sliced shallots
  • 2 small fresh red or green Thai chillies, seeded and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime zest
  • 400 ml (14 fl oz) tinned coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce or light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


To dispatch a live crab, drop it in a large pot of boiling water until there is no movement – a minute or so. Remove and drain.

Remove the tail-flap, stomach sac and feathery gills from the crab. Using a heavy knife or cleaver, cut the crab, shell included, into large pieces.

Peel the lemongrass stalk to the tender whitish centre and finely chop it. In a blender or food processor, combine the lemongrass with the garlic, shallots, chillies, coriander, black peppercorns and lime zest. Blend until it is a paste.

Pour the coconut milk into a wok or deep pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, stir in the blended spice mixture and cook for 3 minutes. Then add the crab, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar, and cover and simmer for 6 minutes.

Turn it onto a large, warm serving platter and serve. It is perfectly good manners to eat the crab with your hands, but I suggest that you have a large bowl of water decorated with lemon slices on the table so that your guests can rinse their fingers.