So Wrong, It’s Right: Soft Shell Crab Pakora Po’ Boy

Soft Shell Crab Pakora Po Boy

What’s wrong with a crispy, battered, golden-fried soft shell crab served between warm buttery bread with a creamy dressing and slices of fresh tomato, lettuce, onion and pickles?

Abso-lute-ly nothing.

But that’s not what I thought the first time I heard of a po’ boy – the traditional sandwich from New Orleans, Louisiana – which I recently recreated with spices used in one of my favorite fried Indian snacks, called pakora.

Soft Shell Crab Po Boy

I grew up surrounded by the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea, and fresh seafood of all kinds were a mainstay on the menu at home. It was usually cooked with very little done to it, so as not obscure the taste of the sea that I associated with recently caught fish. So you can see my hesitation to eat it dipped in batter, fried and served with doughy bread. Nonetheless, I gave it a shot the first time I visited New Orleans and a whole new culinary world opened up for me.

There are a couple of theories of how the po’ boy came about, but the most compelling and coolest is the one with two brothers from New Orleans in the late 1920s:

A popular local theory claims that “po’ boy”, as specifically referring to a type of sandwich, was coined in a New Orleans restaurant owned by Benny and Clovis Martin (originally from Raceland, LA), former streetcar conductor. In 1929, during a four-month strike against the streetcar company, the Martin brothers served their former colleagues free sandwiches. The Martins’ restaurant workers jokingly referred to the strikers as “poor boys”, and soon the sandwiches themselves took on the name. In Louisiana dialect, this is naturally shortened to “po’ boy.”
Source: Wikipedia

Soft Shell Crab

Po’ boys are often made with oysters or shrimp or sometimes soft shell crabs. Since soft shell crabs are in season from late April to the end of October, they were my seafood of choice. Soft shell crabs are regular crabs that have become too big for their shells and, in order to keep growing, they shed them. They begin to grow a new shell within a few hours and it’s during this short window of transition that the fisherman must catch them. They are meant to be eaten whole along with their shells.

I paired the sweet taste of the crab with a light coating of egg white, rice flour, cornmeal and spices commonly used in one of my favorite Indian snacks, pakoras. Pakoras are made by deep frying slices of vegetables or chicken after they’ve been dipped in a spicy batter made of gram flour. I didn’t use gram flour since I felt it would make the batter thicker than I’d like for this dish, although I may try that version sometime very soon.


When ordering a po’ boy in New Orleans, you have to specify whether you want it “dressed” – with tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, onions and mayo. Since I dislike mayo, I opted instead to make a guacamole-like spread using fresh avocados, lemon, salt, and pepper. And instead of regular pickles, I served the small French pickles called cornichons. It seemed fitting to add a French pickle since New Orleans was founded by the French.

Sesame Brioche Buns

Ask any New Orleans’ resident, and they’ll tell you that what differentiates a po’ boy from any other sandwich is the bread. The bread is a unique cross between a regular French baguette and a hot dog bun; it’s crispy with a fluffy center. I couldn’t find a good version of it here and, trying to keep as close to the French/New Orleans theme, I opted for sesame brioche buns which I buttered and cooked on a cast iron skillet.

The result? Mind-blowing!

And for my gluten-free friends – leave out the bun and you can dig in as well!


A printable list of ingredients and directions are at the end of this post,
along with an image of this Perfect Morsel.

Crab Po Boy-crabs

Rinse and pat dry the cleaned soft shell crabs

Egg White

Break and separate the egg, pouring the egg white in a bowl. Discard the yolk or save for another recipe. Whisk the egg white with 1 tbsp cold water.

Rice Flour, Cornmeal, Spices

Place rice flour and cornmeal separately in two plates. Divide the spices and fresh cilantro between both plates. Add ½ tsp of salt to the plate with the cornmeal. Mix ingredients in both plates separately.

Avocado Dressing

Make the dressing by mashing the avocado, ¼ tsp salt, ¼ black pepper, lemon juice and olive oil until creamy. Set aside.

Soft Shell Crab in Egg White

Dip a soft shell crab into the whisked egg white.

Soft Shell Crab in Rice Flour

Place the crab onto the plate with rice flour, coating one side. Flip and press to coat the other side.

Soft Shell Crab with Cornmeal

Place the crab into the egg white again and then onto the plate with the cornmeal. Coat one side and flip the crab to coat the other side. Set aside.

Frying Soft Shell Crab

Heat the canola oil in a deep frying pan or a wok on medium to high heat. Place the crabs into the oil and cook for 3 minutes. Flip the crabs and cook for another 3 minutes, till golden brown. If cooking more crabs, cook no more than 2 crabs at a time to ensure the oil stays hot.

Fried Soft Shell Crab

Transfer the crabs to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up extra oil.

Buttered Brioche Buns

Place butter in a cast iron pan or any wide pan on medium-high heat. Spread the melting butter to coat the pan evenly. Place 2 buns open side down onto the pan and cook for 1 minute. Flip the buns and cook the other side for another 1 minute. Remove and place on individual plates when warm and toasty.

Buns with Avocado Dressing

Coat the inside of both buns with the avocado dressing

Perfect Morsel: Soft Shell Crab Po Boy

Assemble the sandwich using a crispy soft shell crab and the desired layers of tomato, lettuce and onion. Serve with radishes, cornichons and any other sides you think would go great with this. Here’s what a perfect morsel of Soft Shell Crab Pakora Po’ Boy looks like. Heaven on a plate!


  1. neena says

    Crispy Crabs ! A great recipe and I’m sure will taste scrumptious esp with the bun .Will try this out for dad who simply looooves fried stuff!
    Keep innovating,cooking and enjoying what you do .Love you. maa


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>