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Monday, November 17, 2014

Crab Curry (Chimbori Kalvan)

My earliest memory of crab curry takes me back to when I was around 6 or 7 years. Mom had just returned back from the fish market on a Sunday as usual and a couple of crabs had managed to hop out of the shopping bag. It puts a smile across my face when I remember how one of them had crawled and tried to hide under the bed and the other one just followed it. Me and my sister wouldn't stop laughing and chasing them along with my mom, trying to catch hold of the poor creatures. Oh, those little joys of childhood!

Making a crab curry is a laborious task, apart from the fun chasing part of it. But, after all the chasing, cracking, chopping, grinding, stirring, the outcome is a flavorful memory that strikes right chords on all your sensory organs at the same time. Unlike other fish curries, Crab curry gets it aromatic flavour from the famous CKP talala masala, which literally means the fried spices / masala. The fried mixture of sliced onions, coconut and a few spices becomes the curry's core seasoning base.

Crab Curry
Crab Curry
Crab Curry (Chimbori Kalvan) - Recipe
6 medium sized crabs
1-2 teaspoons turmeric powder
3-4 teaspoons red chilli powder (modify as per your taste)
1-2 teaspoons tamarind paste
1 small onion chopped

For green masala:
3 green chillies
10-12 garlic cloves
1 inch ginger piece
handful of coriander leaves

For Talala masala:
3 medium sized onions thinly sliced
1 cup fresh grated coconut(can be substituted with the dry coconut, as is used traditionally)
5-6 whole black pepper
1 inch cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons of Coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds (saunf)
1 teaspoon of Poppy seeds (khus khus)
1 dry red chilly

For tadka (tempering):
pinch of asafoetida powder (hing)
1 clove
1/4 inch cinnamon
2-3 bay leaves broken into half
2-3 garlic cloves

  1. Wash and clean the crabs thoroughly, as these tend to pack in some mud with them.  
  2. Break the small legs and claws and keep the legs aside. 
  3. Break the body into half and clean the crab from within.
  4. Grind the green masala ingredients (ginger, garlic, green chillies, coriander leaves) into a smooth paste.
  5. Marinate the crab body and claws with salt, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and green masala paste and keep aside at least for an hour.
  6. Meanwhile, fry the sliced onions with a teaspoon of oil on a pan until golden brown. Keep aside
  7. Similarly, fry the grated coconut until golden brown and keep aside.
  8. Next, lightly fry all the spices (clove, cinnamon, black pepper, dry red chilli, coriander, fennel and poppy seeds) until fragrant.
  9. Cool these ingredients (onion, coconut and spices) and grind them into a fine paste. This is the 'Talala (Fried) Masala'.
  10. Grind the small legs of crab along with some water and sieve this juice at least twice.
  11. Now starts the final process.
  12. Heat oil and add the tempering ingredients.
  13. Add 1 small chopped onion and fry until golden brown.
  14. Add the marinated crab and saute' for 5-6 minutes.
  15. Then put the fine paste of Talala Masala, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
  16. Add the sieved juice of crab legs to the pan. Do not skip this step as this is the real secret ingredient of the crab curry. This juice is what enhances the taste of curry and makes it more robust.
  17. Add water and let the crabs cook.
  18. The crabs turn vibrant red when cooked.
  19. Add the tamarind paste, salt and water if required. Let it boil.
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and enjoy the succulent crab curry with rice or chapati.