This spicy kani salad recipe combines fresh julienned vegetables with crab sticks and the unique tobiko crunch experience. It is an easy and fast salad that is a meal in itself.
What is Kani Salad?
Kani means crab in Japanese. In a kani salad, though, imitation crab or crab sticks are used, not real crab. Using crab sticks is not a cheap compromise. Crab sticks are a delicious and versatile ingredient in their own right. I always have a couple of packs in the freezer. Try them simmered in butter. They are a quick and easy snack that goes great with a glass of white wine or sake.
The other key ingredient is tobiko or flying fish row. Eating tobiko is as satisfying as popping bubbles in bubble wrap. There is nothing quite like the sensation of all those little eggs popping as you take a bite.
The Other Ingredients
Use the freshest seasonal vegetable you can find for this spicy kani salad. Julienned Japanese cucumber is a frequently used ingredient and contributes a refreshing character. In addition, I used two of my favourite vegetables, red pepper and asparagus. The red pepper brings some sweetness, while the asparagus is a little earthy and a little bitter at the same time (and great in this asparagus and spinach soup). This combination worked. Think about how the vegetables will work together while you are shopping.
Holding it all together is the dressing. To Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie), we add mirin for sweetness and rice vinegar for a bit of acidity. And, of course, a spicy kani salad recipe needs spice.
Why Make It Spicy?
You don’t have to make your Kani Salad spicy. It works very well without chilli. And even if you love spicy food, as I do, only a little is required in this recipe as you can easily overwhelm the wonderfully subtle flavours it features. But adding that little bit of spiciness is very worthwhile. It helps highlight the other flavours rather than dominate them.
Spicy Kani Salad (asparagus, red pepper, and cucumber)
- Whisk together the Kewpie mayo, mirin, rice vinegar, and chilli jam (or Tabasco). Keep in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes for the flavours to meld.
- Roll the crab sticks between your hands and they will break up into strands.
- Top and tail the red pepper, remove the pith, then julienne.
- Top and tail the Japanese cucumber. Quarter length-wise. Scrape out the seeds. Cut again length-wise to get pieces of a similar size to the julienned red pepper.
- Blanch the asparagus spears in boiling water for 30 seconds then plunge into iced water.
- Cut the asparagus spears in half. Store the lower end in the freezer for another purpose (Asparagus soup?)
- Halve the top end of the asparagus spears by cutting up their length so they are a similar size to the julienned red pepper.
- Toss the crab stick strands and julienned ingredients together with the mayo and 2 Tbsp of the tobiko (fish roe).
- Serve, topped with the other 2 Tbsp of tobiko.