Lime Leaf flavoured Asparagus Salad with Alaskan King Crab

Monday, May 16, 2011

Some Memories of Avocados, Adjectives and a Brown Bag

This blogsite has been mostly about meats. So, I think it is about time for some veggie tales.

Crunchy Asparagus. Juicy Tomatoes. Creamy Avocados.

These are the key ingredients of this salad recipe. If you get the right ones, you are almost there when it comes to this dish.

Avocados bring back many childhood memories.

You have heard me talk a lot about my Mum. Now, here is something about my Dad, Wong Pak Kee. Being the eldest in his family, he had to give up on education early and start working to support the family. He grew a vegetables and fruits business in a mini-market located in an expatriate district in KL (Kenny Hill). This type of mini-marts is a dying breed these days. 

He had some unusual hobbies for a fruit & veg seller. One of them is photography. I can still remember the dark room in the house and the strange camera equipment he had. He was one of the first few Malaysians to join the UK Royal Photographic Society as a member. He served a stint as the president of the Photographic Society in Malaysia. He has a small reference in the Photographic Society of Malaysia history page here, something I googled which came as a pleasant surprise. He showcased some of his works at an exhibition and that was the closest he got to the visiting patron, Tunku Abdul Rahman. Apparently, they shook hands.

I can imagine that he would need to sell many papayas and bananas to support this rather expensive hobby.

In fact I can still remember the name of the mini-mart. Some of my holidays were spent in Hock Lee to help my dad. There I had to learn tips of recognizing when a papaya is ripe (tapping) and what makes "Sweet & Crispy Washington Apples" look delicious (spraying droplets of water). And when it came to labels to describe the product, using the right adjectives are important. You would have noticed them when I was introducing the fruit and veg in this recipe.

We could hardly afford good food then but fruits were brought home daily. Daily, he will bring back those which were bruised and unsellable in a brown paper bag. We looked forward to rummaging through this "mystery box" and occasionally, we discovered strange fruits and veggies. Cut away the bruised parts, and the fruit was as good as new. I still have memories of some of my first experiences with custard apples, grapefruit, yellow creamy papaya, all kinds of grapes and mangoes.

And that was when I was first introduced to this buttery fruit: Avocado. With a small teaspoon and some sprinkled salt, we got to enjoy it after some time in the fridge.

Some lovely Asparagus from US
Back to the year 2011. When I was at my fave veg stall recently, I came across a crunchy bunch of Aspas, juicy Toms and creamy (soft and ripe) Avos. Inspired by a recent cooking class, I knew it would make for a good salad cum starter dish for some visiting church friends.

If I have stopped here, this trio would have made for a great salad recipe and vegan-friendly to boot.

But wait: I have Alaskan King Crab legs.

No, I did not have cold feet. I was given a packet of it from attending a cooking class sponsored by Fairprice Finest. Nice.

All Alaskan Crabs are high in protein, low in fat and calories and are a good source of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids. And because Alaska Crab is precooked, you can heat and serve it in a hurry. Just boil, steam, broil, bake or grill for 8 to 10 minutes for frozen crab or 3-4 minutes for thawed crab or until the internal temperature of the crab reaches 145'F (use an instant-read thermometer and test crab in the shoulder section). Alaskan King Crab is the largest and most sought-after of the three species, is world-famous for its sweet flavor and rich, each species has a distinctive flavor and tender texture. And you can buy it from Fairprice Finest! Some types of seafood are on promotion during this period (May). You can buy these legs at $5.90 per 100 gm during the promo period.

(Para above to be said in one breath and a beaming smile.)

That 'product placement' wasn't too subtle, was it? Let me do it again subtly through the pic below, which is promoting many things if you care to expensive 70 dollars watch, my young and lovely assistant and my shirt bought on sale from Mark and Spencer's etc :

At a Fairprice Finest-sponsored cooking class at ToTT with my lovely assistant  - Aunty Lucy Kwok!
And by the way, all Alaska Crabs are high in protein, low in fat and calories and
are a good source of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids...
Hopefully more Alaskan crab legs will crawl in my direction. I will find a dozen ways to cook them and keep my diners happy and moving sideways. And I assume these crabs are 'sustainable,' very much an in-word these days.

And so, the trio became a gourmet quartet. Add to that a vinaigrette of garlic in extra virgin olive oil, flavored with kaffir lime leaves and minced raw garlic, and you have a great starter dish to please your guests. Some of my friends were visiting for dinner and they were fortunate to sample this.

I use kaffir lime leaves regularly in my Thai dishes as well as dishes like beef rendang and sambal dishes. I have not thought of using it in salads and for that, I have the cooking class facilitator, "Chef Ming" to thank, who also 'facilitated' us in making a salad dish from these ingredients..

Ok, I have done my TYs. Let's start assembling this dish.


King Crab and Asparagus Salad Recipe

Serves 4-6

500 gm of King Crab legs
1 bunch of Asparagus
4 tomatoes (or some cherry tomatoes)
2 Avocadoes
Bacon bits

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 clove of garlic
Kaffir Lime Leaves
Salt & Pepper

I went by 'feel' when I made this dish. And you should. You just need to imagine the proportion of the vegetables e.g. 1.5 to 2 stalks of asparagus per pax etc and from there work out how many tomatoes and avocados you need proportionately. And as I have said elsewhere, this recipe is at best a guide on what ingredients you can use and some basic techniques. You can adjust according to your preference.

Blanched for 93.5 secs. Lovely and ready for the mix.
Asparagus: Shave off the skin at the bottom half of the (take a bite to determine how fibrous it is). Cut a bit of the bottom end off. Cut them diagonally (and rotating as you do, for presentation) into pieces of about 2 inches length. Blanch them in a pot of boiling water with a little bit of salt for about 1-2 minutes. Scoop out and bathe it in ice water to stop cooking process immediately and improve on the 'crunch'. Some prefer to grill the asparagus in the oven. But I think that dries it up and as I am serving this at room temp, I prefer to boil and 'crunch' them. Now - are regional or local asparagus better than those from overseas? Depends. You can get some advice from your seller or take a bite to find out. One thing I do know: fibrous asparagus in your salad will ruin it.

Tomatoes: Slice them up. Avocados: Cut into half, open around the seed and then scoop with a spoon.

Slicing the leg shell
Voila - a nice piece of meat

Crab: The frozen crab legs sold here come ready cook. You will only need to snip them off at the joint into shorter sticks. Then cut through the shell skin length-wise with good pair of cooking scissors or shears to open the shell and get to the meat. Wash and pat the crab meat dry. Pan fry some bacon bits. Remove and set aside. Using the bacon drippings on the pan, pan-grill the crab meat for about 1 minute on each side. This will firm up the meat, reduce some of the moisture (frozen seafood has lots of that) and adds some charring. How much should you use? As it is not exactly cheap, you have to decide how nice you want to be to your guests.

You can substitute with other types of crabs (claw meat) or use prawns.

And of course, scallops would be nice as well.

Pan seared and ready for the mix. Soggy crab meat would taste awful in this dish.
Vinaigrette: Minced the garlic. Chop the Lime Leaves very finely. In a separate bowl, pour some of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and add the garlic and leaves. As you are using Avocados, you can use less olive oil. Add Salt and pepper. Whisk or mix the vinaigrette.

Just before serving, toss and mix: the trio, vinaigrette and bacon bits.

You can plate the dish or let your guests help themselves to it from the salad bowl. Salt and pepper shakers should be on the dining table.

Apologies for sounding so cliché, but the dish was flavourful, creamy, shiok, delightful, amazing, divine, incredible and...(I have ran out of adjectives). The barely visible avocado added a smooth creamy taste, the lime leaves gave an "Asian" twist, the Toms were sweet, the crunchy Asparagus stood up to the crabs. It goes well with white wine. My guests enjoyed the dish thoroughly with some NZ Sauvignon.

Char Siew rice with Basil leaves etc
From there, we moved on to rice with Char Siew , accompanied by cucumber, basil leaves and Thai mustard leaves.

So, will I add the crabs in if they were not given to me pro bono? I certainly will on special occasions. They do taste great in this recipe and the bits of the meat which flake off into the salad enhances the dish.

If not, just the trio without seafood will be nice as well.

Take a moment to marvel and give thanks to God for His many colourful gifts in creation. Especially... Avocados.

And I can imagine what I can do today with all the fruit and veg in the brown bag which my dad brought back daily. I do miss the bag... but I miss him more!

Before the toss
After the toss

Fairprice Finest Promotions here
ToTTs hosted the class and more info here
Chef Ming facilitated and more info on Jam here

You Might Also Like


  1. The Food Canon, thank you for being so gracious to your Assistant - Aunty Lucy Kwok