Spicy crab in wonton cups

The flavor of fresh crabmeat is so good on its own that my primary goal in developing this hors d’oeuvre was to use a minimum of ingredients. I wanted to highlight the crab flavor and texture, not mask it. Although I keep a jar of sambal ulek—an Indonesian hot chile paste—in my refrigerator at all times, I thought it might be too obscure to use in this recipe. When I went shopping to see where I could buy sambal ulek, my Asian market was out of stock, but my local supermarket had it right on the shelf in the Asian-foods section—yours probably will, too.


20 pieces


20 wonton wrappers (from one 14-ounce package), each cut into 3-inch squares
3 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
Crab Filling
8 ounces fresh-cooked crabmeat picked over for shells and well drained
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon fresh cilantro minced
1 teaspoon fresh chives snipped
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon sambal ulek (see Cook's Notes)
20 little fresh cilantro leaves for garnish


"To make the wonton cups, position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Have ready two 12-cup miniature muffin pans. Working with 6 wonton wrappers at a time, brush the top side of each wrapper with sesame oil, and press, oiled side down, into a muffin cup. Repeat with the remaining wrappers. Brush the bottom of each wonton cup with a little oil. Bake until the wontons are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely in the tins. Transfer the wonton cups to a covered container and store at room temperature. (The wonton cups can be made up to 2 days ahead.)
To make the crab filling, place the crabmeat in a medium bowl and use your fingers to flake the crabmeat. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir in the mayonnaise, minced cilantro, chives, lemon zest, and sambal ulek. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a bit more sambal ulek, if desired. Cover and refrigerate until ready to fill the wonton cups. (The crab filling can be made up to 1 day ahead.)
To assemble and serve, place the wonton cups on a serving platter. Spoon about 2 teaspoons of the crab filling into each cup. Garnish with a little cilantro leaf."


Sambal ulek, also spelled sambal oelek, is an Indonesian condiment made from chiles, salt, vinegar, and sometimes garlic and tamarind. Sold in jars, it is a fiery paste with bright flavors—a little goes a long way. Other Asian chile pastes with garlic can be substituted, but this one is a favorite of mine. If refrigerated after opening, it will keep indefinitely.