When life gives you crabs, sometimes you need to do something other than make crab cakes or just eat the meat with a little drawn butter, right? How about crab curry?
Years ago, one of the readers of this site suggested I make crab curry, and, casting about for a good version, I settled on the one from Goa, in western India. Goan food is a combination of Indian and Portuguese, and it is one of the more exciting places to go, culinarily speaking.
This curry is so good I’ve been making it ever since, with Dungeness crab mostly, but also red and rock crabs, snow crab legs, and blue crabs, too. I imagine any crab meat you have on hand will work.
This is a from-scratch curry — no premade curry powders — and while it looks complicated, it’s not. Just have everything laid out before you start and you can have this curry done in less than 45 minutes. It is pretty similar to a fish curry I make, so if you have fish, use that recipe.
You do need the tamarind in the recipe, however, as it is a defining feature of Goan curries; you can get tamarind paste in both Asian and Latin markets, and you can buy tamarind paste online.
How spicy is this? Pretty spicy, although the chile heat can be adjusted depending on how many you put in the curry. I like it hot, so I put in 4 to 5 serranos, but you may want to use less.
Finally, if you don’t have lots of crab around, there is no reason on earth not to do this curry with shrimp, lobster, a firm fish, or even chicken or pheasant. It’ll be good with all of them.
Goan Crab Curry
- 1 pound crabmeat
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 6 cloves
- 8 cardamom pods, or 1 teaspoon ground
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons fenugreek (optional)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or clarified butter
- 2 medium onions, 1 chopped fine and 1 sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2-3 small fresh chiles, such as serrano or Thai, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
- 1 14- ounce can of coconut milk
- 1/4 cup grated coconut, fresh, if possible
- 1 heaping tablespoon tamarind paste
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
- Make the curry mix by toasting the coriander, peppercorns, cloves and cardamom pods in a dry skillet until they are fragrant and the coriander just starts popping. Take off the heat and let cool a minute or two and then grind fine in a mortar or spice grinder. Mix well with the turmeric, cumin and fenugreek.
- Saute the chopped onion, the ginger, and the chiles in the same pan with the oil or butter until soft. Do not brown. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Take the onion mixture off the heat and put it into a blender. Add the curry spice mix to it, then about 1/4 cup of water. Blend into a puree.
- Pour the coconut milk into a pot and heat it over medium-high heat until it simmers. Add the sliced onion and grated coconut and let this cook for 3-4 minutes at an active simmer.
- Add the curry from the blender and mix well, then add the tamarind paste and mix again. Taste for salt and add some if needed.
- Mix in the crab and cook until just heated, maybe 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and serve over rice.
My mom went crabbing and I decided to use some of the crabs she brought home for this recipe. It was amazing! Best curry I’ve had for quite a while. Thank you so much for the recipe!
I made this for a dinner party and used shrimp instead of crab. It turned out fantastic. I will say that while everybody loved it, people were divided on the spiciness even though I used 5 serranos for a double batch. It is funny to me that the eastern European, the Vermonter and the American of Scandinavian descent thought it was perfectly fine, but the two people who grew up in southern California thought it was really spicy. So maybe remove the seeds from your serranos if you are serving people who struggle with spicy food.
Macrina Correia says
Hi Hank, I tried your recipe and it turned out to be a delectable dish which does well with bread!! My gravy turned out thicker so I didn’t have it with rice. And I forgot to add the tamarind pulp towards the end but it was just yumm. I m from Goa and crab xec-xec is my favourite. Was homesick during the pandemic so decided to make this dish. Thank u for the recipe! Hope you are doing well during these times
Rob Wingard says
Fantastic recipe that came together really quickly. It was great to have a new flavor set for crab! Definitely making this again.
Supriya Kutty says
This Crab curry is looking delicious and tempting. I have never tried it at home, always eaten in restaurants. I will now try this recipe at home and let you know. Thank you for sharing this recipe with the audience. Keep up the good work.
emilie monty says
Could I make this with canned crab meat to save on cost?
Hank Shaw says
Emilie: I suppose.
Letitia Fernandes says
Every house is goa has their own recipe and it’s all about sitting down with a plate of rice and crab curry for hours at the table chatting and sucking the crabs and getting messy. I make my
Moms crab curry atleast once a month. I think it’s about time I make it again.
I have a friend whos family is from goa. They have been making crab curry when i bring them the crabs but, instead if using the pre cooked meat they toss the crab legs and quartered bodies in with the butter and onions. Then add in all the other stuff. Starting with the curry. Become a litterally finger liking good crab feed.
Hank Shaw says
Joel: Thanks for the tip! I did do it that way a couple times, but many readers said they didn’t want to get their hands messy, so I changed it up. Still tastes great!
Coco in the Kitchen says
I have to make this tonight.
Crab cakes just got told.
Jake Dathe says
Curious for a method to do this with soft shell crabs from my butcher. Got 3 in the freezer right now
Interesting that you didn’t also roast the cumin.
Hank Shaw says
Tim: You absolutely can, I just didn’t. Laziness on my part.