Snapper and Spiced Crab with Lime-Coriander Broth


Pan-fried correctly, this snapper will develop an outrageously crispy skin. Start with a very hot, well-oiled pan, Douglas Keane says. To prevent the skin from sticking, gently shake the skillet so the fish glides on the oil.

Snapper and Spiced Crab with Lime-Coriander Broth
Photo: © Quentin Bacon
Total Time:
1 hrs


Lime-Coriander Broth

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • 1 onion, thinly sliced

  • 1 small celery rib, thinly sliced

  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed

  • One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, smashed

  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 6 cardamom pods, crushed

  • 1/2 star anise pod

  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

  • 10 cilantro sprigs

  • 2 basil sprigs

  • 2 makrut lime leaves (see Note)

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

  • 1/4 cup fish sauce

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice

  • 2 cups water

  • Kosher salt

Snapper and Spiced Crab

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds

  • 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds (from 12 pods)

  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds

  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds

  • 1 star anise pod, broken

  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped

  • 1/2 pound lump crabmeat, picked over

  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • Six 5-ounce red snapper fillets


  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion, celery, garlic and ginger and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the coriander seeds, crushed red pepper, cardamom, star anise, peppercorns, cilantro and basil sprigs and lime leaves and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook over moderate heat until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the fish sauce, lime juice and water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat for 15 minutes. Strain the broth into a small saucepan, season with salt; keep warm.

  2. In a small skillet, combine the cumin, cardamom, coriander, fennel and star anise and toast over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to a spice grinder and let cool, then grind to a fine powder.

  3. In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the ground spices and cook over low heat for 1 minute. Fold in the crabmeat, cilantro and lemon and lime juices and remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper.

  4. In each of 2 large nonstick skillets, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the remaining oil until shimmering. Season the snapper with salt and pepper; add to the skillets, skin side down. Cook over high heat, gently shaking the skillet, until the skin is golden brown and crisp, 5 minutes. Flip the fillets and cook for 2 minutes longer.

  5. Mound the spiced crab mixture in warmed shallow bowls and top with the snapper fillets, skin side up. Spoon the broth all around and serve right away.

Make Ahead

The broth can be refrigerated overnight and reheated gently.


You can substitute two 1-inch strips of lime zest for the makrut lime leaves.

Suggested Pairing

Good Sauvignon Blanc is one of the world's most distinctively aromatic wines, an ideal match for the complex Asian spices in this dish. Sauvignon Blanc is generally better when it's unoaked, but a modest amount of oak can give a little additional richness that pairs particularly well with crab.

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