Coconut crab cakes – Zanzibar


It’s been a hot couple of days in Joburg this week. Almost tropical, with bright sunshine and high humidity. Finally, it is summer and it makes me long for the sea. Since I’m sadly not able to jump on a plane to the nearest beach I will try this weekend instead to evoke a sense of lazy days by the ocean by cooking this recipe inspired by a trip to Zanzibar a few years ago.

Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania’s capital Dar es Salaam, is all about sunshine, salt waters, hot sand, coconut trees and seafood. The evening Forodhani food market in the harbour of the island’s main city, Stone Town, is a veritable smörgårdsbord of all what the ocean has to offer: fish, crayfish, crab, squid – all grilled and served on skewers right there and then.

I loved the large bright red crab claws that were simply cracked open and grilled on the coals, and this recipe of crab cakes is an attempt to capture a sense of Zanzibar. The shredded coconut makes it quite different from many other crab cake recipes I have come across and really makes for a distinct, tropical taste. Perfect for a hot day by the pool. Enjoy!

4 starter portions

  • 1 lime
  • 1 fresh chilli, African Bird’s Eye chilli or Thai chilli
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tins of crab meat, about 240 grams without brine, or same amount of fresh crab meat if you can get hold of it.
  • 3 Tablespoons dried, shredded coconut
  • 1 large boiled potato, about 150 grams
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Breadcrumbs

Grate the zest of the lime fruit, and finely chop the garlic clove. Combine the two in a mixing bowl.

Split the chilli pepper lengthwise, take out the seeds and disregard. Finely chop the chilli and add to mixture.

Take the crab meat out of the tin and try to press as much of the brine out as possible, using a strainer or a fine colander. Add to mixture.

Add the juice from half the lime fruit, plus a little salt and pepper. Add the shredded coconut and mix. Mash the potato and add.

Crack the two eggs open in a glass or similar and whisk lightly with a fork, then add to the mixture. Combine everything to an even mixture.

Shape small patties of the mixture and coat with breadcrumbs. Then fry in vegetable oil on high temperature, about 3 minutes on each side.


Forodhani food market, Stone Town.
Forodhani food market, Stone Town.

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