I'd been planning to cook a traditional Bengali-style crab curry called kakrar jhal for such a long time.
Many people think crab curry is a Singaporean or Malaysian dish, but several countries have their own version of this seafood dish. You can also find different varieties within the same country. During a trip to Bangladesh in 2014, my mother-in-law and other relatives cooked different versions of crab curry.
“The king of all crab dishes, this popular dish is served with the shell on, and is typically eaten with one’s hands. Make sure you have plenty of napkins handy – it’s messy work!″ Adam Liaw, Destination Flavour Singapore
Bangladeshi crab curries are spicy and sweet. I requested crab curry every day during that trip. I remember the smell of the curry wafting through the house and we'd sit at the table anticipating this fantastic dish.
In Bangladesh, there are two popular crab curry dishes: one type is called kakrar jhal, which is crab curry with gravy, and the other is kakra vaji or fried crabs.
My sister-in-law told me that crabs are easily found in ponds and the sea. Pond and sea crabs look and taste different from each other. Pond crabs are usually called baby crabs and have soft shells. They don't grow very big, so people usually just fry them. Most people choose to use sea crabs for curry.
"I remember the smell of the curry wafting through the house and we'd sit at the table anticipating this fantastic dish."
Crabs in Bangladesh are not as expensive as they are in Australia and are a regular at family meals. When you're in the countryside, my sister-in-law once told me, it's easy to grab crabs from different water sources, such as from the sea or riverbank. Even kids collect them.
We recently bought several crabs at our local seafood market here in Australia, because we've been planning to cook crab curry for a little while now. However, I didn't know how to clean and prepare them so my husband took the lead to show me. After cleaning, we added a bit of salt and turmeric to them and left them to marinate for 10-15 minutes - then it's ready to cook.
We also like to add chopped tomatoes and potatoes to the curry and normally serve this dish at home with steamed rice to absorb all the flavours of the gravy.
This dish is so great for family reunions, and it reminds me how much fun we had when we visited Bangladesh. It is an honour to share this recipe with all food lovers and a family favourite.
Bengali crab curry
- 4-5 fresh medium-sized crabs, cleaned and prepared
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp chilli powder
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 red onion
- 1 tbsp ginger paste
- 1 tbsp garlic paste
- 1 tsp garam masala powder (optional)
- 30 ml cooking oil
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 sliced fresh green and/or red chilli
- 2 tomatoes (optional)
- 2 potatoes (optional)
- A handful of chopped coriander and spring onions (optional)
- Salt, to taste
- Set a pan over medium heat. When hot, add oil.
- Add spices, chopped onion, ginger and garlic paste to the pan.
- Mix ingredients together.
- Add half a cup of water, mix again and saute for 1 minute to create a sauce.
- Add tomatoes and/or potatoes if you like, then saute for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the crabs to the mixture.
- Add 1 cup of water and stir. Boil crabs in the mixture for 10 minutes.
- Keep the heat on medium for another 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Serve with green and/or red chilli and chopped coriander.
Note: After cleaning the crabs and before cooking, add a bit of salt and turmeric to the crabs and marinate for 10-15 minutes.
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