How to cook a crab

Seafood is dear to my heart. Land animals are reared and fattened but fish and shell fish live happy lives, swimming around weightless in water and are the sea’s gift to us. For me the crab is the king of all seafood. In India we usually dismember the fella and chuck him in to a pot of gravy, pincers and all, body cleaned but intact. This is unlike the western way of eating crab which is to boil it, then crack it open and remove the flesh and flake it in to salads or a terrine. True to our Indian character we like to get our hands dirty, crunching, munching and burping good food. You know you are eating good food when there’s gravy and juices dripping off your elbow and bits of shell all over your front.

The Bay of Bengal is teeming with all sorts of crabs including the famed mud crab. But most of these get visas and fly off to Singapore before they reach the Indian fish markets. Maybe you heard this – why are boxes of Indian crabs that are exported left open. Answer: Because if one tries to crawl out the others will drag him back in.

Eating a crab is easy. But most people do not cook crabs at home because they don’t know how to clean and cook it. So here’s my very quick and easy recipe for a great crab curry, Konkani style, and how to prepare your crab before cooking it with pictures

For 3 people  choose at least 4 large crabs, I wouldn’t bother with ones smaller than the ones shown. We got these in the Gajuwaka (Vishakapatnam) fish market for Rs.150. Pretty cheap considering their size.

Now to dismember the crab first remove the legs by pulling them away from the body gently as shown. If the shell is very thick you can gently crack the legs with a heavy pestle before immersing them in the gravy when cooking.

Then open the body by slipping your fingers in under the shell at the opposite end of the eyes and pull the shell away. It will come away easily.

Once you’ve opened the shell, remove any orange roe (L) and the fan shaped gills (R) which will be dark brown in colour. Some gills may not be as pronounced as the one shown below – it might be more flaky. But against the white flesh you will see it.

Remove orangey roe

Recipe for the gravy:

  • In a blender blitz together 2 medium onions and 1 large tomato.
  • Mince 1 tbsp ginger and 1 tbsp garlic
  • Heat 1 tbsp oil and add 1 bay leaf in a large wide pot
  • Fry one chopped onion till soft
  • Add the ginger and garlic and fry for 30 seconds. You can add a little water if things start to stick
  • Add the onion/tomato mix from the blender
  • Continue to fry well on a lowish heat
  • Add 1 tbsp chilli powder and 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • Add 2 tsps salt
  • Let the whole mixture bubble gently on a low heat, adding water a little bit at a time and allowing the gravy to thicken before adding a bit more water. Add as much water as you think you will need gravy, depending on the size of the crabs.
  • Keep cooking until the raw masalas have been cooked. This will take at least 15 to 20 mins. Keep scraping off the dried bits from the sides of the vessel.
  • When you have enough gravy to the thickness you like add the crabs ensuring they all their own space. Spoon the gravy over the crabs.

  • Cook the crabs for 10 to 15 minutes on a low heat if you have large crabs. The flesh should be very white. Do not over cook as the flesh will disintegrate.
  • Now stir in 220 ml (1 packet) of coconut  milk ( or a bit more if you’d prefer a more coconut taste) and turn the heat off.
  • This dish is best enjoyed with plain fluffy brown or white rice, raw onions and poppadoms. Crack the pincers/legs with your teeth as the shells should be soft now, or use a nut cracker.

PS: I just realised that there is no ‘final’ shot of the crabs plated up and garnished but that’s because it was so tasty we just couldn’t wait!


About nonsense girl

Galley slave, qualitative researcher working in development, married my best friend, writing about my life, my family, my dog, TV, Indian culture, astronomy and my garden.
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