Tempura Soft Shell Crab Bao Bun

Soft shell crab is one of those things that you see on a restaurant menu but never think to make at home – that’s how I felt at least.

This all changed a few months ago when I started going to the local farmer’s market in Brooklyn. I spotted a vendor that sold some really fresh soft-shell crab and decided to pick a few up on a whim!

I had a few steamed bao buns left in my freezer and decided to make these tempura soft-shell crab bao buns! The tempura batter is made with cake flour, cornstarch, and ice-cold beer for the lightest but crispiest fry. This is definitely a treat but one that’s absolutely worth it! Perfect for date night with your honey or just by yourself 🙂

5 from 2 votes

Soft Shell Crab Bao Bun

Servings 4 people
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 40 mins


  • 4 soft shell crabs cleaned + trimmed
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup cold beer or seltzer water
  • 4 bao buns see note 1
  • 4 pieces of lettuce or your choice of leafy greens
  • 1 scallion thinly sliced for garnish
  • neutral oil for frying
  • flakey salt to taste

Chili Oil Mayo Sauce

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp chili oil
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 grated garlic
  • 3 pickled peppers chopped
  • 2 tsp pickled pepper juice
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • lemon zest


  • Combine mayo, chili oil, dijon mustard, sugar, garlic, pickled peppers, pickled pepper juice, cilantro and lemon zest. Mix together well until thoroughly combined. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use.
  • Steam the bao buns (see note 1) and keep warm until ready to assemble.
  • In a deep pot, add neutral oil to the half way mark. Heat oil to 360F / 182C over medium heat.
  • In a bowl, beat the egg using a whisk. Sift the cake flour, cornstarch, and salt into the egg. Pour in the cold beer and gently mix until combined. Do not overmix or else the batter will become dense.
  • Place the soft shell crab into the batter until evenly coated. Carefully transfer the battered crab into the oil. Fry for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Transfer to a wire rack then sprinkle with flakey salt. Repeat for the remaining crab.
  • To assemble the bao, take a steamed bao bun then fill it with lettuce, soft shell crab, chili oil mayo, and scallions.
  • Serve immediately and enjoy!


  1. If using store-bought bao buns, steam by following the package instructions. If making bao buns from scratch, check out my Steamed Bao Bun recipe
Course: Appetizer, Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: Fusion
  1. If using store-bought bao buns, steam them by following the package instructions. If making bao buns from scratch, check out my Steamed Bao Bun recipe

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  1. 5 stars
    Made this for the first time and it was incredible!!

    1. 5 stars
      Hi Penelope! I’m glad you enjoyed this recipe 🙂 It’s definitely one of my favorite ones!

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