Krabby Patties: My Secret Formula

Whooooooooooooooooooo lives in a pineapple under the sea?

Spongebob Squarepants!

And what does he serve up with undying love at the Krusty Krab?

Krabby Patties!!

I’m a huge fan of Spongebob Squarepants and his friends in Bikini Bottom; I know the lyrics to the theme song by heart and I know all the characters (my favourite is Sandy Cheeks). I love Spongebob’s wild enthusiasm and joie de vivre and that they occasionally show his butt-cheeks, but most of all I love his pure unadulterated adoration of the (cue angel music) Krabby Patties at the Krusty Krab. How awesome is a cartoon that involves the love of good food??

Walking through the canned goods section of my supermarket, I finally gave in to the urge and procured a can of Crab Meat. Never have I dealt with such an alien foodstuff – I have eaten crab on many occasions (mostly against a backdrop of curry) and I’m intrigued by how the meat is removed and canned. I have a deep niggling suspicion that it’s being done in a huge warehouse in China, by row upon row of workers pushing it out with their pinky fingers but that’s just my paranoia bubbling up. I’m sure they’ve figured out some magical mechanical method. So sure. Very sure. Oh dear.

(This is not a completely unfounded fear – does anyone remember the story about Chinese workers using their MOUTHS to debone chicken portions?) (I tried finding the news article but clearly they’ve hushed it up. I did find an article on mummified fairy remains though, using “China chicken deboning by mouth news article”. The mind boggles).

Things got even more X-Files when opening the can revealed a compacted sponge of white fibres under a wax-paper-like seal. It smelled almost too ocean-y and had the appearance of something which would bounce well if flung at the floor with enough force.

{canned weirdness}

Nonetheless, I persevered; I didn’t bother googling other people’s recipes for a similar product. I’m such a big Spongebob fan that I felt it would come to me intuitively. I definitely felt that I was channeling Spongebob the Fry-Cook in the kitchen.

For 2-3 Krabby Patties you will need:

1 can (170g) crab meat, drained (but don’t squeeze all the moisture out)

~150g hake (2 babies) (they were the only fish available in my freezer, since I bought them by accident thinking they were regular little parcels of filleted hake and I haven’t really had a use for them since)

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons crushed garlic

Salt and Pepper

2 slices of white bread with the crusts cut off, torn into little pieces

An outrageously positive attitude and an annoying shrill laugh

Firstly, thaw the hake gently in the microwave, remove any skin or bones, then chop them up. They will bulk the mixture out and support the flavour without overwhelming the crab (the tin of crab is only half-full and it’s pretty expensive) (it takes a lot of pinky-finger-work to extract after all) (kidding!).

Give the crab meat a suspicious look, then get over it and plonk it in with the hake and mix together lightly.

Add the egg, garlic and lemon juice, and mix gently to keep some of the chunky texture – you don’t want to end up with the equivalent of  a fish polony. Season with salt and black pepper.

Gradually add in the ripped-up bread until a soft-but-firm-enough-to-hold-together mush forms (add only as much as is needed).

Check the seasoning by pinching off a tiny piece, then microwaving it on a plate for about a minute. Eat the resultant rubber ball and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Divide the mixture into 2 or 3 portions and shape into patties about 1.25cm thick, making sure to pat round the edges to neaten them up. Put them on a plate, cover them and refrigerate for about 30 minutes for the flavours to mingle and the various components to settle and get along with one another. This should give you enough time to sing the theme song and phone your dinner guest to ask them to pick up hamburger buns on their way over, since you’ve forgotten.

Next get a nice heavy non-stick-sprayed pan onto the heat, split the buns and place them face-down in the hot pan until they just start to brown and go crispy. I do this part first so that they are nicely textured without absorbing all the flavour and residue left over from the patties.

Put enough sunflower oil into the pan to coat the surface, then gently put the patties in the pan on medium heat. Fry on both sides until golden brown. Don’t worry about the strange bouncy texture, it’s the extraterrestrial effect of the crab. They may form cracks on the surface on the uncooked side – these don’t go all the way through though so the patty will remain intact.

Now for the assembly – apply butter to the buns if preferred, and embellishments of your choice. There is a list of the Krusty Krab’s prescribed additions, but I used fresh rocket, a yummy wasabi-type horseradish sauce, and sliced tomatoes. I know, I know, I got the order wrong and the rocket’s in the wrong place (the horror! the shame!).

These are by far the yummiest fishy burgers I’ve ever tasted and the texture is firm, not mushy and falling apart as fishcakes often turn out to be. The crab flavour is perfect – bordering on crayfishiness even. I have it on good authority that the patties are even better when reheated the following day. I totally get Spongebob’s obsession now.

Are you ready kids? Aye aye, Captain!!

PS: In 2009, the “Boastful Butcher” in Durban won the SAB Kickstart Enterprise Development Business of the Year award – they produced both prawn patties and crab patties but sadly I’ve never managed to find these either in Durban or Johannesburg. Has anyone out there ever heard of/seen/tried these?

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