As a Punjabi, I usually fail to understand the beauty of a Fish. As a community, we are not known for our great Fish making skills. While Bengalis, Maharashtrians, Goans, Keralites and even Kashmiri’s have a vast repertoire of exotic Fish curries in their culinary heritage, the only thing we are known for is “Amritsari Fish.” Which, let’s face it is not the best thing to do these delicate beauties.
While I lament the lack of fish making skills that we possess, we are completely flummoxed with Shellfish. And if the Shellfish is something like the mighty Crab, you have already lost our attention, and we have lost our will to cook. Also, let’s admit that cleaning a Crab is not the easiest thing to do and then at the end of the day after all the effort you make to cook Crabs, the quantity of Meat that you get in return is just dismal. I mean why bother, cleaning, cutting, grinding the masala and then cooking a Crab, when you can marinate a Chicken, stick it in a Tandoor and have a Patiala peg while it does its thing.
If you are in India, you always get your local Macchiwali (Fishmonger) to clean and cut the crabs for you. But here in Sydney, you cannot expect the fishmongers to do it. They just don’t have that sort of time for you. You either buy entire Crab or settle for a tin of Crabmeat from the supermarket aisle. Now I am not a girl who gives up on a Fish, just because it is laborious to cook. So with some anticipation and a lot of perspiration, I brought Crabs for the first time and proceeded to not just clean them, but cut them and cook them.
As I watched my very posh husband, who even eats a Burger with a knife and fork, lick his fingers coated with the masala, enjoying the whole process of eating the Crabs, I had to kiss my own fingers with happiness.
Recipe (Cooking time 60 minutes, Serves 3 – 4 depending on the size of the Crabs)
1 Kg Freshwater Crabs (I brought Blue Swimmer, which are easily available in Sydney)
¾ Cup Desiccated Coconut (you can also buy frozen desiccated Coconut from Indian stores and thaw and use)
2 medium sized Onions roughly chopped
3 Tomatoes roughly chopped
3 – 4 Green Chilies
3 Garlic Cloves
4 – 5 pieces of Kokum (Available in Indian shops)
1 tsp red chili powder
1 ½ tsp Tumeric powder
1 tsp Coriander powder
Salt to taste
3 – 4 tsp Vegetable Oil
Freshly chopped green Coriander
Prepping the Crabs
- You can get your Fishmonger to clean and split the Crabs for you. Blanche then in hot water with some Salt. You will notice the shell will change to an Orange color when done. Throw the water and then pour some cold water on top to ensure they are thoroughly clean.
- If you are like me, cook the whole Crabs in hot water with Salt. Throw away the water and then pour some cool water to ensure they are thoroughly clean. Now drain all the water and cut into quarters by splitting down the middle from head to tail, then cutting each side into halves.
Making the Masala
- Heat ½ tsp Oil in a pan and add the Coconut and roast it for a few minutes on a low flame ensuring the Coconut doesn’t burn. Keep it aside.
- Heat ½ tsp oil in the same pan and the Garlic, Green Chilies and Onion. Cook till the raw smell of the Onion has disappeared.
- Add the tomatoes and cook till mushy.
- Cool, mix the Coconut and grind to a fine paste with ½ cup water.
- Heat 1 tsp Oil in the same pan and add the masala. Cook till the Oil starts to separate.
- Add Salt, Turmeric, Red Chili & Coriander powder. Gently add the Crabs and mix, slowly ensuring Shells are coated well with the masala.
- Add 1 cup Water, Kokam, cover, and cook,
- Add fresh Coriander before serving on Rice.
Note: If you don’t have Kokum, sprinkle some Lemon Juice before serving the Crabs.