Spicy Kani Salad

Japanese food is an enigma. A delicate balance between the over cooked and the uncooked, between the overly seasoned and the unseasoned… A balance of extremes. Japanese cuisine reflects its culture. A graceful symmetry between the old and the new. A level scale holding on to the past and pressing into the future.

A close friend of mine lived in Japan the last couple years and talks about these extremes. She tells of their home high in the mountains, bitter cold in winter due to no insulation. Yet they had fiber optic internet, go-figure. In Japan, balance doesn’t mean duplication; it means hot and cold dancing together in perfect rhythm.

I like balance. A lot. I would say it is one of my utmost goals in life. To give myself completely to the purposes and people I hold dear, yet not choose one over the other. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in one pursuit, one relationship, or one mindset, and allow others to suffer.

Dishes with personality from Villeroy and Boch.

I want my life to be bold, yet reserved. Graceful, yet edgy. Wise, yet adventurous. Complex, yet simple. Ah balance, sometimes you are no where in sight! Thankfully every morning is a fresh chance to step out on that tightrope again.

I appreciate Japanese cuisine because I feel it encapsulates this concept. Extreme textures and flavors coming together in harmony.

Spicy Kani Salad is a tribute to balance: cool and spicy, silky and crisp, sweet and tart, light and filling. The spicy dressing caresses the smooth cooling ribbons of cucumber, crab meat and mango, sprinkled with crunchy panko. A symphony of contradiction in every bite.

Cook’s Notes:

Kani usually refers to imitation crab, which is white fish pressed into “sticks” for Japanese cooking. It shreds easily and is much less expensive then real crab.

Make sure to only add the panko right before serving so it is as crisp as possible.


Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Spicy Kani Salad


For the Dressing:
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 Tb. rice vinegar
½ tsp. sugar
1 tsp. sriracha (chile sauce)
½ tsp. Paprika
½ tsp. freshly grated ginger
Pinch of salt

For the Salad:
4 kani sticks (1/2 lb. imitation crab)
1 mango, peeled and shredded
1 large (or three baby) cucumbers, peeled and shredded
¾ cup panko bread crumbs


Whisk the first seven ingredients together for the dressing. Taste for seasoning and set aside.

Shred the crab sticks by hand and place in a large bowl. Shred the cucumber and mango in a food processor (or julienne by hand) and place in the bowl.

Toss with the dressing and top with panko immediately before serving.

Here are my little Japanese salad eaters.

Sweet, spunky and always helping mommy search for her balance!

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61 Responses to “Spicy Kani Salad”

  1. #
    pam — May 16, 2011 @ 6:23 am

    I’m all about balance too! AND I totally love those dishes!


  2. #
    Belinda @zomppa — May 16, 2011 @ 6:35 am

    Yum – what a delicate, lovely salad!


  3. #
    5 Star foodie — May 16, 2011 @ 6:52 am

    This is a very unique salad, loving the spicy dressing and the combination of cucumber, crab meat and mango, nice!


  4. #
    Dan — May 16, 2011 @ 7:35 am

    Very jealous. I so wish my seven-year-old would try something like this!


  5. #
    Nelly Rodriguez — May 16, 2011 @ 8:14 am

    oh my god, I love this salad! looks delicious and the kids are even funnier!


  6. #
    Apron Appeal — May 16, 2011 @ 8:17 am

    Having a picture of your kids eating this is what sealed the deal for me. Did you have to “encourage” them to try it or did they just dig in?


    • Sommer — May 16th, 2011 @ 8:50 am

      They are actually putting away a SQUID salad at one of our favorite little sushi joints in these picture. But, no, they are pretty adventurous eaters at this point!


  7. #
    My Kitchen in the Rockies — May 16, 2011 @ 8:19 am

    Your little ones are so cute! How wonderful that they enjoy the salad as well. My daughter would, too, but not my son. Thanks for a great new salad idea.


  8. #
    Sawsan@chef in disguise — May 16, 2011 @ 8:31 am

    You have adorable kids! They are super cute and they know how to use chopsticks! (I don’t lol)
    I love the salad, the combination of flavors is so appetizing..


  9. #
    Roxan — May 16, 2011 @ 8:47 am

    Mm, this salad looks tasty and refreshing! Have you heard of the japanese mayonnaise, Kewpie? You should try that with this salad next time! :)


    • Sommer — May 16th, 2011 @ 8:58 am

      Thanks Roxan, It’s not available where I live, so this dressing is made with regulay grocery store finds. :)


      • Anon — November 5th, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

        Try making your own Japanese style mayo.
        I use 2 egg yolks
        1 cup of canola oil in a squeeze bottle
        1/2 tsp sugar
        1/2 tsp salt
        pinch of MSG (Accent)
        1/2 tbs of rice vinegar
        1/2 tbs malt vinegar though you can just use 1tbs rice vinegar if you like.

        Put one egg yolk and the salt and sugar in a bowl. Mix with electric mixer on low then slowly start adding the oil, drop by drop ( this is the reason for the squeeze bottle, I use one I got in the cake decorating section at WalMart that came in a two pack and holds exactly 1 cup). Do not rush the oil or it will turn into a mess.
        Once you get about half the oil added, add the second egg yolk and keep adding the oil, you can add it faster now. When I get to about 1/4 of the oil remaining I pretty much add it in a stream. The texture may get a little lumpy here, but not to worry. When all the oil is in, add the MSG and the vinegar then mix some more on low, this will settle any lumps that may have formed. Cover and refrigerate.

  10. #
    Jennifurla — May 16, 2011 @ 9:55 am

    what cuties, I would love to try this. Seems simple anough for me to try.


  11. #
    RavieNomNoms — May 16, 2011 @ 9:57 am

    What an interesting salad, and I am SO impressed that they are eating it! I wouldn’t have eaten ANYTHING like that when I was younger haha. I was so picky. Looks great!


  12. #
    Emily @Cleanliness — May 16, 2011 @ 10:09 am

    1. I am stealing your children.
    2. I am stealing your plates along with your children.
    3. This recipe is awesome!


  13. #
    Jessica — May 16, 2011 @ 10:17 am

    You are absolutely right in their perspective of balance. I have heard that everything in life is about balance, even the type of food. I love the sound of the spicy crab salad you made here and it looks great! Oh and your Japanese salad eaters’ use of chopsticks is impressive!!!


  14. #
    Vicki @ Wilde in the Kitchen — May 16, 2011 @ 10:19 am

    I love japanese food but always have trouble mimicking my favorite restaurant. They do have an amazing way of balancing all the flavors and texture! Thanks for sharing this recipe, it looks great!


  15. #
    Liz — May 16, 2011 @ 10:25 am

    Oh, what adorable children! Such cute personalities :) And on to the salad…which looks fabulous! Such wonderful flavors…I’d love a bowl or two~


  16. #
    aesh came — May 16, 2011 @ 11:12 am

    the ingredients are an interesting mix, mango? I bet it taste wonderful. Here we make mango salad but it;s spicy.


  17. #
    Angie's Recipes — May 16, 2011 @ 11:24 am

    Fruity, light and flavour! This is such a wonderful salad.


  18. #
    Lindsey@Lindselicious — May 16, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

    Your kids are so cute! I have never seen a Japanese salad with mango in it before… Which means I need to try this ASAP!


  19. #
    Linda — May 16, 2011 @ 12:53 pm

    I’m very excited to see this recipe! I have these ingredients on hand except having real crab vs. the imitation crab. I realize the taste will be off but I’m going to try it out as the flavor combinations sound so good! And how could I not comment on your children as those photos really brought a smile to my face! I truly miss having my kids at that age!!


  20. #
    CSawyer — May 16, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

    I love those two little “eaters”!!! Since they were babies they have been eating the good stuff!!!! You’re such a great mom!! Can’t wait to try this one!!


  21. #
    carolinaheartstrings — May 16, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

    What fun they look like they are having. Great looking recipe.


  22. #
    Claire — May 16, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

    The little ones are SO cute. And the presentation on this dish is stunning. Gorgeous photography!!!


  23. #
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert — May 16, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

    Sommer – just got home from a long day and read this lovely post. Not blowing smoke here – you are a great writer. It always leaves me thinking and wanting to know more about you and your family. Lovely dish and great analogy. And, your children are adorable! Thanks for sharing.


  24. #
    Mary @ Delightful Bitefuls — May 16, 2011 @ 2:09 pm

    Okay, that looks so great! Love the colors! Balance is sooo important!!!


  25. #
    adri — May 16, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

    looks great.
    I am eating “hiyashi chuka” tomorrow, kinda similar :)


  26. #
    Kate@Diethood.com — May 16, 2011 @ 2:50 pm

    Light and flavorful salad…and gorgeous!
    Your little ones are soooo cute! They already know how to eat with chopsticks? Oh I am in big trouble!


  27. #
    A Little Yumminess — May 16, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

    Love the photos of the salad eaters – almost more than the salad!! :)


  28. #
    Aldy — May 16, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

    Absolutely Gorgeous Salad, Sommer! Beautiful- mouth-watering flavors ~ Bravo! And your children are super-cute :)

    Great shots,



  29. #
    Sneh | Cook Republic — May 16, 2011 @ 6:26 pm

    Gorgeous salad! Love all the fresh flavours in this recipe. Your children are adorable. How priceless is the look on your daughter’s face as she puts that salad in her mouth as if she is thinking “Oh My God, Wonder how it will taste?”, lol. My 7 year old son does the exact same thing!


  30. #
    blackbookkitchendiaries — May 16, 2011 @ 11:33 pm

    this salad looks so yummy!! thank you for sharing this:) i cant wait to try this out.


  31. #
    Carolyn — May 17, 2011 @ 4:38 am

    I’ve never thought about Japanese food that way, but your description makes sense. The salad looks delicious!


  32. #
    Tiffany — May 17, 2011 @ 6:41 am

    I love these pictures!!!!! And the salad sounds wonderful! P.S… One of my close friends is going to Asheville this week to eat her stress away in all of great restaurants there. I’m jealous :).


  33. #
    Pudding Pie Lane — May 17, 2011 @ 7:17 am

    Aw, your ‘Japanese salad eaters’ are so cute! I also was fascinated about the balance and ying and yang thing, but I think this dish captures it quite well :)


  34. #
    Kristen — May 17, 2011 @ 7:19 am

    Sounds delicious. I have a package of kani in my freezer that I have been wondering about. A salad like this sounds perfect!


  35. #
    elle marie — May 17, 2011 @ 7:55 am

    It wasn’t until I moved to Japan that learned how to infuse various cultures into dishes in a delicate way, does that even make sense? We here in Japan buy the imitation kani, for some reason, it has a very distinct taste, and well of course real kani is also very delicious, but quite pricey.


  36. #
    pachecopatty — May 17, 2011 @ 8:23 am

    Sweet little Japanese salad eaters Sommer!
    I like this recipe, something a little different but interesting and delicious looking;-)
    Your photos are gorgeous;-)


  37. #
    Dmarie — May 17, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

    balance…what a great goal! I used to pray for patience and all I got was trouble to practice being patient in. this recipe looks like a winner –and so do those beautiful kids!


  38. #
    Devaki@weavethousandflavors — May 17, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

    This is so very wonderful and yes please let’s learn to balance and here’s to the pursuit of equilibrium :)

    Since I am embarrased to say we pig out on Japanese fodo in this family, this salad is calling our name. Gorgeous pics, gorgeous everything Sommer :)

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors


  39. #
    Marisa — May 17, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

    I LOVE this. It looks so good, I’m obsessing over the pictures. I would like to try making this over the summer–can’t wait to see what it tastes like!


  40. #
    torviewtoronto — May 17, 2011 @ 7:49 pm

    delicious have had these flavours in a sushi but not on its own looks wonderful


  41. #
    Kita — May 17, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

    A good balance is something I really could use right about now – In the meantime, I may just have to munch on some Japanese food til I figure things out. This looks awesome.


  42. #
    Lora @cakeduchess — May 17, 2011 @ 8:20 pm

    I love this post, Sommer. I really like how you describe Japanese cuisine: it is spot-on!! This salad is amazing and your kids eating are just adorable!! My kids love sushi (my son calls it shushi). Delicious, as always.


  43. #
    Reese&Mark@SeasonWithSpice — May 18, 2011 @ 3:43 am

    In a world of thousands (maybe millions?) of food blogs – all displaying delicious recipes and photos – it is hard to distinguish one from the other. However, the writing can be drastically different. And unfortunately many bloggers do not seem to emphasize its importance. A Spicy Perspective is a welcome find because you’re a great writer, Sommer. Looking forward to reading more.


  44. #
    Marly — May 18, 2011 @ 6:15 am

    Love this recipe…and the photos of your kids eating it!


  45. #
    Wizzy — May 18, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

    Salad looks awesome but you’ll have to forgive me if I use real crab as I’m not fond of the imitation


    • Sommer — May 18th, 2011 @ 9:08 pm

      I understand. Imitation crab is traditional for this salad, but you could definitely substitute REAL crab. It doesn’t shred as well, but you can’t beat the flavor. …Although I will say imitation crab has come a long way. It’s much more flavorful (and sustainable) than is used to be. :)


  46. #
    Alison — December 1, 2011 @ 11:10 pm

    Thanks for an amazing recipe, love your blog
    Low Fat Salad Recipes


  47. #
    Laura — August 21, 2012 @ 12:24 pm

    I was looking for a spicy kani salad and found this one! I decided to make some changes, I added avocado, uncooked cubes of ahi tuna and black sesame seeds. I didn’t used cucumber, mango and panko. Turned out great! I’ll follow the recipe next time. Love your kids, they surely seem like foodies already!


  48. #
    Jacque — April 13, 2013 @ 5:22 pm

    Delicious sauce!


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  56. #
    Bill — August 30, 2013 @ 7:24 pm

    Great recipe! Next time I’m gonna make a little more sauce and add some chilled soba noodles.



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