Soft-shell crab has featured on the Benares menu pretty much since they opened their doors in 2003. Soft-shell crab is a culinary name for the crabs that have shed their hard shell and are still soft. They can then be eaten whole, after the mouth parts, gills and abdomen have been removed- the rest of the body is edible. The flavours of the sea are quite evident in the meaty, plump crab, so they pair it with avocado, spices and tangy fruits like mango and passion fruit.

Soft Shell Crab by Benares
Soft Shell Crab by Benares

Serves 4


  • 4 jumbo soft-shelled crabs, cleaned and patted dry
  • Sunflower oil for deep-frying
  • Sea salt
  • About 100g cooked fresh white crab meat, flaked, to serve
  • 1 mango, peeled and diced, to serve
  • 50g crushed peanuts (or boiled and deep fried quinoa)

For the marinade

  • 2 tsp white rice flour
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 1tsp ginger-garlic paste
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp red chilli powder
  • 1tbsp mustard oil
  • 1tsp chopped coriander leaves
  • ½ tsp peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1tsp lime juice

For Papaya Salad

  • 1 Thai green papaya, peeled, seeds removed and flesh shredded
  • 2 tbsp panch phoran
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 150ml lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt

For Sour Mango Dressing

  • 300g mango puree
  • 100 ml water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp Amchoor powder
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1tsp chilli flakes
  • 30g chopped ginger


Whisk all the ingredients for the marinade together in a non-metallic bowl and rub all over the crabs. Leave to marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. Place all the ingredients into a small sauce pan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Allow the dressing to cool to room temperature, pass through a fine sieve and season with salt and lemon juice to taste.
Make the salad ahead of time as it allows the flavours to develop. Heat the oil in a small saucepan and add the panch phoran – cook until the spices start to crackle. Add the salt, sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil.
Place the shredded papaya in a mixing bowl and pour the paunch phoran dressing over the papaya, mix well and set aside.
When ready to serve squeeze the papaya mixture to drain the juice and mix the drained papaya with the sour mango dressing.
Heat the oil for deep-frying at 190C. Add the crabs and fry for 2-3 minutes until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper to remove excess oil.

Present the crabs with the papaya salad, dressing and crab meat. Sprinkle the toasted and crushed peanuts and serve immediately.


The Chef: Atul Kochhar

Atul Kochhar
Atul Kochhar

Atul Kochhar’s unique talent as a twice Michelin starred chef has changed the way people perceive and experience Indian cuisine. Taking inspiration from his native India, while continuously researching regional dishes. Atul has managed to combine his heritage and innovative modern Indian cuisine.

As the very first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star, accomplished during his tenure as Head Chef at Tamarind in 2001, he then went on to open the highly acclaimed Benares Restaurant & Bar for which he was awarded a second Michelin star in 2007.

The Restaurant: Benares | 12a Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, London, W1J 6BS | 0207 629 8886 |

The Offer: members receive a complimentary Champagne cocktail for each guest and 15% off the total food bill for lunch and dinner Monday to Friday. This offer is valid for a maximum of 6 guests per table. Click here for more details and to book.

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