Crabby Balls

Decades ago, in a land far, far away, a housemate introduced me to several Asian-inspired dishes. I wasn’t as fluent in cooking back then, but this recipe has stuck with me throughout the years without much modification. Marcotte called them Pork & Crab Meatballs.


BigDMcC, another old friend, calls them John’s Crabby Balls. The name seems to fit.


Here’s what you will need to make them:

Primary Ingredients:
Equal parts of:
Imitation Crab Meat
Pork Shoulder
Water Chestnuts

Oil, shortening, lard, or duck fat (for frying)
Corn Starch (for a crunchy crust)

Flavoring Agents:
Fish Sauce
Onion Powder
Powdered Ginger
Salt & Pepper
Pequin Powder


You’ll need to grind up the pork. If you are silly enough not to have your own meat grinder, ask your butcher to grind it for you. I’m not even going to get into why one should grind their own meats, but I will say that the FDA (or is that the USDA?) has guidelines as to how much hair, bug parts, and rodent droppings are allowable in sausage.

You’ll also need to chop up the water chestnuts. You’ll want pieces large enough to lend a nice crunch to your balls, but not enough to distract you whilst you are sucking these down.

So, johngl, what’s up with the imitation crab?

I’m so very glad you asked. I have a question for you, too. Have you looked at the price of crab meat (even the canned stuff) these days? It also seems like a bit of a waste to use real crab in a dish where pork fat is involved. I don’t wrap scallops in bacon either. It just overwhelms the delicate seafood.

If you happen to be the proud grower of money trees, by all means, substitute real for imitation. Either way, you still will need to chop it up. Go nuts!


Using a spatula, gently mix the primary ingredients together. Also, add flavoring agents as you see fit for the volume you are making. It isn’t rocket science, it’s cooking. Take it easy on the salt, especially if you use fish sauce, soy sauce, or Worcestershire sauce as those all contain large amounts of sodium.

To taste test, fry a few small bits of the mix and see if you like it. Needs heat? Add more ginger, pequin, or cayenne. You get the idea.


I like my balls to weigh about an ounce per piece. This is about two bites worth. You can make a patty-sized thing out of this is you’d like to serve this as a unique lunch burger. Instead of fries, serve it with Crab Rangoon. Awesome.

I keep these at about an oz. each because I usually serve them as finger food.


Give your balls a nice dusting of corn starch. Use flour if you want. Use a Tempura batter if you want. It’s all up to you!

The best method I’ve found to dust these buggers is to put a couple of tablespoons of corn starch in the bottom of a large stainless steel bowl. Add a ball or two. Pick up the bowl and give it some hula-hoop type action. The balls will roll about the bowl and pick up corn starch as they move about.


I start out with the cooking oil at 350°F. I also use cast iron as my cooking vessel of choice. It tends to hold heat better.

Allow your oil to come back to temp between batches.


These take 3-4 minutes to cook. In a shallow pan, you will have to turn them. In a deep fryer, you won’t.

Drain/cool on a rack over some paper towels. It really does work better than putting them directly on to paper towels.


I usually make up a quick cocktail sauce using ketchup, horseradish, and black pepper. Gyoza sauce works great, too. If you like tartar sauce, use that, but I won’t be joining you.

I’m crabby that way.

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About johngl

A bit of a wildman, John hails from the Midwest: A land of corn, cows, pigs, and a host of other healthfully meaty pursuits.

Born on a dark and stormy night in late Fall, John grew up as the son of a meat cutter. There was always plenty of meat at hand. While not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, his family certainly ate well. According to his father, that was the whole point.