13 January 2012

Crab Cakes with Ginger and Coconut Milk by Barbara Tropp

Barbara Tropp's Crab Cakes with Ginger and Coconut Milk

On the Gourmet Live's list of Women Food Changers there have been many women who have soaked in the lime light and those who may be a little less widely known. Dare I say we have never heard of them... until now. The next woman on the list is Barbara Tropp. Now who is Barbara you might ask? She is the daughter of podiatrists, who grew up in a Jewish community in Springfield, New Jersey and the #30 outstanding woman on our list. She mesmerized foodies from around the world with fusion Chinese for 11 years in my favourite town San Francisco. 

After falling in love with Chinese culture in an art class in high school, she took a different path than her Jewish upbringing and she became obsessed with the study of Chinese culture. Two years in Taiwan and a fortuitous stay with a chef and "foodie" host families led her to immerse herself in the intricacies of the Chinese cuisine she grew to love.  

Back at Princeton, the young graduate student struggled to finish her thesis. With her fellowship running out, she began giving cooking classes to supplement her income and cooking Chinese dinners for diversion.  She soon dropped out of Princeton and moved to San Francisco to be closer to their vibrant Chinese community and food markets. She could speak, read and write Chinese fluently and was the chef/owner of China Moon Cafe, an internationally acclaimed Chinese restaurant for 11 years. Similar to Chez Panisse in Berkeley, China Moon Cafe drew foodies from around the world who came for the unique combination of California cuisine infused with a deep knowledge of another traditional food culture. Frequent visitors to the restaurant during this time included Julia Child who was a dear friend. Barbara has written two definitive Chinese cookbooks, “The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking” and “China Moon Cookbook.” She lost her fight with ovarian cancer in 2001.

One of our simple pleasures in life is navigating the blogging community and participating where we can. Our group has now passed the halfway point on the list of Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers. The past six months have flown by as we experiment with dishes from each of the 50 influential women on "the list." Whether you agree or disagree with the authors chosen fifty and their order it has been an enjoyable and creative outlet to cook from the masters and those we admire. There have even a few influential bloggers on the list.  We have checked out books from the library, borrowed cookbooks from friends, surfed the Internet and browsed our own cookbook collections seeking that one recipe that will highlight that weeks outstanding woman. This group is spearheaded by my favourite well-travelled blogger Mary of One Perfect Bite who back in June invited bloggers to travel along on a culinary journey throughout the year. It is still not too late to join in in 2012 so please contact Mary.This really has been a fascinating if not challenging exercise. We have learned so much, not just about each of these individual women and their lives but new techniques in the kitchen as well. We have been forced to think outside the box and recreate magic in our own kitchens.

What have we been up to with our 30th Women Game Changer....

Mary of One Perfect Bite  - Garlic Stewed Spare Rib Nuggets
Val of More Than Burnt Toast - Crab Cakes with Ginger and Coconut Milk
Susan of The Spice Garden - Wine Explosion Vegetable Chowder and Scallion Breads
Taryn of Have Kitchen, Will Feed  - Crystallized Ginger Butter Squares
Heather of Girlichef - Buttercup Squash Soup with Fried Ginger Threads
Miranda of Mangoes and Chutney - Sesame Scallop Balls
Jeanette at Jeanette's Healthy Living -Stir Fried Wild Rice with Wild Mushrooms
Kathleen Van Bruinisse at Bake Away with Me - Baby Sesame Biscotti
Barbara of Moveable Feasts - Ginger Ice Cream
Veronica of My Catholic Kitchen - Velvet Corn Soup
Annie  at Most Lovely Things
Claudia of Journey of an Italian Cook  - Eggplant Caviar

This version of Crab Cakes may have those on the East coast rallying about the purity of the crab cake but the sweetness of the crab is elevated by the coconut milk. I opted out of the  cilantro, as I always do,  using parsley instead since to me it would overpower the dish. If you read these pages you are aware I am not a huge fan of cilantro but do try the recipe in its original form if you are so inclined. Either way it would be outstanding.

**Barbara Tropp's Crab Cakes with Ginger and Coconut Milk**
  • 1/4 a bunch of cilantro (or more to taste -- the original recipe uses one entire bunch), leaves and stems, finely chopped ( I personally used parsley)
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 4 scallions, sliced into thin rings using the white part and about two inches of the green
  • 1 teaspoon (or more to taste) Chinese chili sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 2 pieces white sandwich bread (the same type as Pepperidge Farm), crusts removed, in tiny pieces
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 pound jumbo lump blue claw crab meat
1. In a bowl, mix the cilantro, ginger, scallions, chili paste, salt, coconut milk, bread, and egg together. Set aside.

2. Inspect the crab meat for bits of shell being very careful not to break up the big lumps of crab.

3. Gently fold the cilantro ginger mixture into the crab. Taste for seasoning. Gently but firmly press the crab meat mixture into patties. I did this by filling 2-inch rings with the crab mixture, removing the ring and then gently pressing the edges towards the center. Place the patties on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and let it sit in the refrigerator for about an hour which will make the crab cakes firmer and less prone to breaking apart.

4. Generously film a cast iron frying pan or whatever frying pan you may have with vegetable oil (this would not be the time to use olive oil) and saute the crab cakes until browned. Turn gently and brown the second side.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison
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  1. I'm a big fan of coconut milk and crab -- cilantro, not so much, like you. I'd like to try crab cakes this way, cilantro or no. This series has been so interesting and informative, really enjoyable.

  2. Yummy - coconut milk in crab cakes! Wonderful write up on Barbara Tropp.

  3. I'm pretty much a purist with my crab cakes, Val, but the coconut milk sounds like a great addition. The ginger must be interesting too...the recipe sounds like something from the Caribbean rather than Maryland. (I'm also skipping the cilantro)
    Nice little kick in these!
    Great write-up!

  4. These crab cakes sound fantastic! I think I'd probably go heavy on the cilantro since I'm a cilantro lover and all these flavors together sound heavenly. Delicious choice!

  5. Those look fantastic and so flavorful! A wonderful combination.



  6. now these crab-cakes are simply heaven to me... and they look divine, your photo's are marvellous!

  7. What a lovely recipe, Val. The crab cakes sound delicious. My backlog of recipes grows exponetially on Friday. I hope you have a good weekend. Blessings...Mary

  8. yummy recipe...I will try it soon....This makes me drool..Bookmarking it..


  9. Your photo is very attractive! I'm still having a hard time trying to imaging crab with coconut milk. I guess I'm going to have to make this recipe to find out. It does sound delicious!

  10. I'm liking this a lot - the coconut milk has me so intrigued. This would be a fun weekend appetizer - I always do them on Sunday. And I will be using Italian parsley for the cilantro as I always do.

  11. I never heard of Barbara before but it was fun reading about her. These crab cakes look incredible - I love all the flavors and your photos are just wonderful!

  12. I love coconut and crab. Your cakes look fabulous! You picked a great recipe to share with us.

  13. Interesting post and recipe (like the addition of coconut milk) and great photos!

  14. Your crab cake is so delicious looking, great photo. I am hungry looking at them and I just had dinner.

  15. delicious looking filling snack :)

  16. Though I've had ZERO time to participate lately, I love reading along with these posts! I did actually research recipe for Barbara and this was one on my shortlist. I'm glad to see it was so tasty!

  17. What a neat little Thai twist she has put on the traditional crab cake! That Barbara Tropp! You picked a good one, Val! Was this one in China Moon Cookbook? If not, I have to bookmark your post!

  18. they do look amazing! so crispy on the outside and the combination of flavors sounds really good

  19. Thanks Val! I'm making these. My husband's cakes will get the parsley. Mine will get the cilantro!!


  20. This is an interesting recipe that does not use mayo. My only attempt at crab cakes was ok, but not so good as to make me want to do it again. This being crab season, I can use some encouragement in the form of an enticing recipe. Your crab cakes look beautiful!

  21. Hi Val - I bought her cookbook a few years ago after reading her story and battle with cancer. You've inspired me to get our her book and cook Chinese!

    Your crab cakes look perfect.

  22. I adore Thai food, and this recipe has some of my favorite elements. I am a cilantro lover, so bring it on! I rarely buy crab meat, but this recipe would tempt me enough. I'm keeping my eyes open for a good price and availability. Beautiful photo, Val! Love lime on anything.

  23. Coconut milk and crab meat...very interesting! They look fabulous! Nice post!

  24. I do love crabcakes, but notany kind; some just don't do it for me; too grasy. This recipe sounds like a must try. I found a fish store that carries some vacuum sealed crab meat that is fantatic.
    Are tou having any probelms with bloggger these days; my blog is going crazy.

  25. I like the thought of this - so often crab cakes are served with such a heavy sauce that all I can taste is the sauce. I bet the coconut milk mixture would accentuate the crab cake perfectly!!!

  26. Her restaurant must have been fantastic. So sad about her battle with cancer.

    The ginger and chili sauce along with the coconut milk in these crab cakes sounds delicious. I totally agree about cilantro!

  27. What a lovely post... the writing, the introduction to Barbara Tropp and now a hunt for the books, the droolingly beautiful photos and a great take on one of my favorite things to eat... crab cakes!

  28. Hi Valli this look delicious I love crab meat!!! xx

  29. I can not wait to try these~my mouth is watering!

  30. Whats not to like..coconut, cilantro, crab...hell this is heaven.

  31. OMG these look scrumptious. Never made one I loved, yet. Maybe this will be it. Sure looks perfect!

  32. Not your average crabcake and very exotic with ginger and coconut...I'm in!

  33. I am liking the flavours in these crab cakes!

  34. I am so looking forward to making these tonight. I am living on the Kenyan coast and got some live, fresh crabs from a fish seller who came to my door yesterday. After a fierce battle, I cooked the giant crabs and processed them. We had crab risotto last night(delish) and I was wondering to do with the rest of the meat for tonight. Coconut milk, lime and cilantro are very much a part of Swahili cuisine. I had been thinking that coconut crab cakes would be delicious, so I searched and found your recipe. I am hoping they taste as good as they look!


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