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Green Peas in Crabmeat Sauce

Green Peas in Crabmeat Sauce

By Tim Hazell

Peas are considered one of our oldest legumes. The general consensus is that domestication originated in Central Asia or the Middle East. Carbon dating places sugar snap peas in Thailand and Burma about 9,750 BC and at a Bronze Age site in Switzerland around 3,000 BC.

The pea is most commonly the small spherical seed or the seed pod of the pod fruit Pisum Sativum. Each pod contains several peas, which can be green or yellow. Pea pods are botanically classified as fruit, since they contain seeds and develop from the ovary of a pea flower.

Hot pea soup was sold as a street food in ancient Greece. Peas were included in Roman cooking treatises and brought to Europe by nomads and traders who had been heavily influenced by Greek and Roman culinary arts and ingredients. Their long-term storage potential when dried made them a peasant favorite during the Middle Ages, when they served as an energizing porridge. An elegant hybrid developed during the reign of Louis XIV was christened petit pois.

In India, fresh peas are used in various dishes such as aloo matar (curried potatoes with peas) or matar paneer (paneer cheese with peas). Split peas are also used to make dal, particularly in Guyana, and Trinidad. Dried peas are often made into a soup or simply eaten on their own. In Japan, China, Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaysia, peas are roasted, salted, and eaten as snacks. In Chinese cuisine, the tender new leaves and stems are commonly used in stir-fry.

Austrian scientist and monk Gregor Mendel used peas in his iconic experiments to demonstrate the heritable nature of specific traits. European settlers to America brought with them their snow and sugar snap peas, along with field and garden varieties. Thomas Jefferson grew more than thirty varieties on his estate. With the invention of canned and frozen foods, green peas became a year-round favorite.

My wife Louise recently prepared a beautiful, glazed-sauce dish from the Chinese recipe trove of the iconic Irene Kuo: crabmeat or surimi laced with bright-green peas!


10 ounces frozen peas, defrosted

3 tbsp oil

1 small whole spring onion, finely chopped

2 quarter-sized slices peeled ginger, minced

1 cup fresh or frozen crabmeat, or substitute 2 sticks surimi (enough to make one cup), finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup chicken broth

1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbsp water



Heat a wok or large, heavy skillet over high heat until hot. Add the oil, swirl, and heat for 30 seconds. Lower heat to medium high, add spring onion and ginger. Stir for about 10 seconds. Add the crabmeat and toss. Add peas and sprinkle in the salt, stirring rapidly in turning and scooping motions to combine well. Pour in the broth, cover, and steam-cook vigorously for 1 minute.

Uncover, give the cornstarch and water mixture a big stir, and pour it into the pan, stirring briskly until the sauced crabmeat and peas are smoothly glazed. Pour into a hot serving dish.


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