According to Joe Kitsana, owner of Darlinghurst’s Republic Sandwiches and Salads, deep-fried soft-shell crab belongs between two slices of bread.

“It’s not sacrilegious!” he says. “It’s beautiful. It’s delicious.”

At his recently opened sandwich shop in Kings Lane, Kitsana produces a steady stream of sandwiches for hungry takeaway clients and eat-ins alike. Some stay awhile in the open backyard courtyard; others swing by for a signature schnitzel sandwich to take away.

Kitsana’s soft-shell crab sandwich is as much of an homage to his childhood as his stints in fine-dining restaurants such as Longrain and Sailor’s Thai.

“I have to go back to my Asian cooking, you know?” he says. “I used to stir-fry a lot with soft-shell crab and homemade chilli sauce, or salt and pepper with crab. Since opening my sandwich shop I thought, ‘Should I bring back soft-shell crab? People might like something different.”

So far, they have. So popular is the dish, Kitsana has invented a twist. He’s altering his original sandwich and adding a Philadelphia cream cheese and cheddar-based spicy sauce.

“I made something to balance the crab and go well with the rest of the dish,” he says. “The carrot and daikon already has a bit of crunch in there, and now I’m just bringing in the Philadelphia cream cheese to make it creamy and tasty to go on the crab so you have that nice smooth texture.”

If you aren’t lucky enough to snag one in-person at Republic, there’s still hope: we’ve got Kitsana’s recipe for the dish. He uses Vienna bread, but says if it isn’t available at the local bakery, he approves of ciabatta as an alternative.

The recipe also calls for deep-frying the crab. If not an option at home, Kitsana recommends pan-frying the crab to maximum crispiness.

“Just fill the pot a little bit,” he says. “Make sure the pieces are cooked both sides to get that nice and crispy golden brown.”

Update: this item is no longer available in-store. Here's how to make Republic Sandwiches’ Soft Shell Crab Sandwich at home.

Republic’s Soft Shell Crab Sandwich
Serves one

Ingredients:
For sauce:
100g Philadelphia cream cheese, whipped until soft
1 carrot, grated
50g cheddar, grated
1 tbsp Sriracha chilli sauce

For sandwich and filling:
1 soft shell crab, quartered
½ tsp fish sauce
Tapioca flour for dusting
1 egg, whisked
Oil for frying
2 slices brown Vienna or ciabatta bread
1 tomato slice
2–3 lettuce leaves
Sprinkle of shallots, thinly sliced
2 coriander stalks, roughly chopped
2 pickled carrots
1 picked daikon radish
Herb mayo

Method:
For sauce:
Mix the Philadelphia cream cheese, carrot, cheddar and Sriracha sauce until well combined. Set aside at room temperature.

For sandwich and filling:
Combine the crab and fish sauce in a bowl. Dust mixture with flour and dip in egg. Fry in shallow pan or fryer until golden brown.

To assemble the sandwich, spread mayo on each side of bread. Add lettuce, tomato and crab. Top with sauce, pickled vegetables, coriander and shallots.

This article is presented in partnership with Philadelphia Spreadable Cream Cheese. Featuring the signature smooth creamy texture of Philadelphia cream cheese, we've worked with some of our favourite cafes to design this limited-edition lunch menu item, available in-store now.

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