Nandu / Crab Masala

Crab was one thing that was made quite sporadically at my residence back home. Since I ate it rarely, I didn’t learn the art to eat it right. I sometimes would chew the leg, drink its juice and spit out the shell. I haven’t cooked it even once in India and when I came here to the US, I didn’t even attempt experimenting with it for the first few months. Then one fine day while shopping for fresh tilapia and shrimp at Ranch 99, I was tempted to bring home one huge live dungeness crab for dinner that night. I asked the cleaner to wash and cut them into manageable size before he packed it for me. It was $15 for one huge crab. “Expensive! It has more shell than flesh” I complained to myself.
After I reached home, I left the crabs in the refrigerator until I was ready to cook it. While doing my laundry, I thought about making a finger licking tomato base with aromatic spices and sweet coconut milk and let the crab cook in it steam. I wanted to use a lot of curry leaves for added depth and flavor. I visioned having a plateful of cooked crab layered with tons of sticky onion-tomato sauce.  I started by perfuming the oil with earthy curry leaves and then sauteing tons of chopped onions, I mixed in ginger and garlic for intense goodness and cups and cups of juicy tomato and exotic spice powder for . As I stirred and talked to the base mixture, I gently poured the coconut milk along the edges. I watched the pure white colour of the coconut milk slowly mingle with the red base and change its color slowly to a reddish orange hue. It looked like a sunrise on a kadai. I topped the crab masala with tons of chopped cilantro and lemon juice. I served it over white rice and placed a wedge of lemon by its side. Flavourful! Healthy! Lip smacking food!
Serves 2
Source: My grandmother
1 tablespoon olive oil
15-20 curry leaves
3 large onions – chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled – minced
3 garlic cloves – minced
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
2 teaspoon cumin powder
2 tablespoon tamarind pulp/paste without seeds
2 cups tomatoes – chopped
 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup thick coconut milk (Store bought cans work fine too)
1 large dungeness crab – cleaned and cut
Salt to taste
For garnish
1/2 cup chopped cilantro and lemon juice and wedges.
1. Heat oil to the pot/pan. Add the curry leaves and let it perfume the oil. Next add the onions and little salt and cook covered for 8 minutes until they brown. Add the garlic and ginger paste.  Fry for about 3-5 minutes at low to medium heat.
Note: The onion mixture might stick to the pan, but make sure to scrape it off.  If you are cooking at low heat there is less chance to burn the stuffs while will turn them dark brown & bitter.
2. Add turmeric, chili powder and the coriander powder. Saute to avoid the sticking to the pan. Add the tomatoes, tamarind paste and combine well with the rest of the mixture.Add water and cook covered for 15 – 20 minutes. The tomatoes must thicken. Cook on high for few minutes to get the consistency of tomato sauce; not too watery and not too thick and sticky. You could see the oil along the edge off the flame.
3. At this stage, add coconut milk and garam masala let it simmer for 5 minutes.Add salt to taste. Check for seasonings.
4. Place the crab over the sauce and cook covered for 10-15 minutes. Garnished with cilantro, lemon and serve hot with white rice.
Additional notes:
1. Crab masala can be eaten as an entree during South beach diet phase 1.
2. Can be served with whole wheat chapatis for those in phase 2 and phase 3.
3. I didn’t take crab during pregnancy as crabs are believed to increase body heat and my grandmother asked me to avoid it during pregnancy. You can consult with your OB/GYN for further clarifications.
4. Since the crab meat is good for us, this masala can be taken by individuals who are on a weightloss journey, for those who are diabetic/pre-diabetic.

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  1. hi vijitha,
    first time here…u've got a lovely blog….the crab masala looks slurrrrrrrrrp….

  2. Look at that beauty! I love a crab recipe like this, make me wanna use my hand while eating my dinner

  3. Looks super delicious, but I don't know if I have what it takes to cook crab myself! I get freaked out by seafood that looks like the animal. That's why I stick to fish filets. Maybe one day, I'll have enough courage to try something like this! 🙂

  4. Ooh! We make a similar curry for fish/prawns but for crab my mom's way was different. This looks so good now I am craving both her version and yours!

  5. I absolutely love crab meat but never ever tried making it home! This looks stunning but 15 bucks for one crab is so expensive da..

  6. We have a very similar Odia preparation that makes use of spices and gravy.Loved your version and you have a lovely way with words 🙂

  7. I was looking for a recipe with crabs and coconut together, yours seems great! I let you know when it's done! thanks 😉

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