Inspired by ancient market places and seaside trading posts, these Coconut Chickpea Crab Bites are pan fried and topped with a Minty Avocado Crema and Spicy Mango Salsa, making them a delicious, gluten free twist on traditional street foods found throughout the world.
[Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Torakand Adventures LLC and is part of a series of recipes developed for the fictional fantasy setting of Lost Colonies, an immersive live-action roleplaying community in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area. This post also contains affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links.] ]
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Walking through the bustling market of Oasis, the air is filled with the scent of ripe tropical fruit and spices imported from all over Sobukand. Street vendors hawk savory kebabs of unknown roasted meat and impaled scorpions, as well as convenient ropes lined with dangling soft shell crab and tiny, salty fish you can eat whole, bones and all. No trip to Bidawa Hadir is complete, however, without a taste of their most popular regional street food, ‘crab tallies’, or often just tallies. These bite-size rounds of pan-fried chickpea flour are mixed with fresh crab meat and shreds of coconut, and served in bowls made from whatever fruits or vegetable skins the vendor has on hand. Firm, edible leaves of local yellow plants are used to scoop toppings of spicy sweet fruit salsas and a pale green minty cream sauce onto the morsels, and eaten by hand without the need of a place setting or seat.
The name “tallies” has a dubious origin. Some claim that it is due to their size and shape, which resembles the scale weights used by merchants to calculate a standard measure of goods. Others claim that in times of hardship, stale tallies were used in place of currency in games of chance, acting as a way to “tally” the total owed from one individual to another. Either way, the result is a filling meal enjoyed throughout the marketplace of Oasis.
– Excerpt from A Traveler’s Guide to Sobukand by Donla Pheinkuk
Coconut Chickpea Crab Bites
This recipe for Coconut Chickpea Crab Bites is the third in a series of recipes inspired by the fictional cultures and traditions of Lost Colonies, a live action roleplaying experience based in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area. (You can learn more about this collaboration in the first post of the series.)
Inspired by Middle Eastern falafel and fused with Latin American and South Indian flavors, Coconut Chickpea Crab Bites are eaten with endive leaves and topped with a minty avocado crema and spicy-sweet mango salsa. Serve the savory crab bites as individual portions, with a few rounds per endive leaf, or put out a big pile as a shared appetizer. Either way, these bite-size snacks are both exotic and entirely too familiar, and the use of chickpea flour means they are also naturally Gluten-Free.
The Streets of Bidawa Hadir
Known locally as “crab tallies”, this street food is popular in the fictional land of Bidawa Hadir, a desert island in the north east of Sobukand. It has only one established city on the southern coast – Oasis – but is otherwise inhabited by small, waterfront villages of less than fifty people each. Built upon a natural spring, Oasis alone is home to more than ten thousand inhabitants. The climate is hot and dry, punctuated by a short rainy season and even shorter windy season. Understandably, seafood makes up the primary diet of the island inhabitants, who enjoy a variety of fish, crab, and lobster, as well as tropical fruits like coconut, mango, avocado, and even wild and cultivated species of cacti. Goat milk and cheese is also available, due to a small herd of goats kept outside the city, but their meat is usually reserved for special religious festivals and occasions.
Between the climate, regional geography, and available food sources, my inspiration for the foods of Bidawa Hadir comes from a mix of several real-world locales. First and foremost, the available fruits and vegetables, as well as the seaside location, brought to mind South Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine, while the added use of cacti made me think of Central American flavor profiles. Each of these regions have well-known and popular street foods, which I sought to combine in imagining what the islanders would enjoy in a bustling, active marketplace.
Coconut Chickpea Crab Bites with Mint Avocado Crema & Spicy Mango Salsa (Gluten-Free)
- 1 ½ cup chickpea flour, divided
- 1 ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 8 ounces fresh crab meat
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- Endive leaves, to serve
Mint Avocado Crema
- 2 large avocados, peeled and mashed
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup fresh mint, diced
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
Spicy Mango Salsa
- 1 mango diced
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
- ¼ cup lime juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, diced (optional)
Make the Crema & Salsa
- Prepare and mix together all of the ingredients for the Mint Avocado Crema with a fork, until fully combined and smooth. Add additional salt and/or pepper to taste. Store in a sealed container in the fridge until needed.
- In a separate container, mix together the ingredients of the Spicy Mango Salsa. Store in a sealed container in the fridge along with the Crema.
Prepare the Frying Station
- Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat, liberally adding the cup of vegetable oil. Working left to right, set up a three bowls or plates: Fill the first bowl with ½ cup each of the chickpea flour and shredded coconut, reserving the rest for the crab bite dough. Leave the second bowl or plate clear for rolled and floured crab bites. Line a third low bowl or plate with paper towels, and set aside (this last plate is the plate you will use to drain oil from the bites once pan fried and finished)
Make the Crab Bites
- In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining dry ingredients, from the chickpea flour through the white pepper. Using your hands, mix in the coconut flakes, followed by the crab meat, beaten egg, and lime juice until just combined.
- Form the crab bite dough into small balls, a little less than an inch in diameter. The smaller they are, the easier they fit on the endive leaves when serving. Roll each ball in a dusting of the flour-coconut mixture, and set on the empty plate you set out in the previous section. Repeat until there is no dough left.
- Working in batches, pan fry the crab bite balls in the prepared skillet. Roll and flip them around until all sides are golden, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the finished crab bites to drain on the paper towel lined plate with a spider or slotted spoon. Repeat until all crab bites are cooked. Sprinkle with salt, if desired.
- You can either pre-assemble the Crab Bites for your guests with 2-3 crab bites per endive leaf, or set out all the Bites as a shared plate, with crema and salsa on the side. I would do the first if you are eating these for a meal, and the second if they are to be eaten as a shared plate or appetizer.