As early as the 17th century, Macassan traders from what is now Indonesia planted tamarind and mango trees along Australia’s northwest coast for use as navigational aids, and as provisions for future voyages. Those imported fruits could be considered the first international influences in Australian cuisine, and combined with mud crabs – a favourite food among the local indigenous population – they tell a story of the history of our country.
- 1 kg mud crab
- 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
- lime wedges, finely shredded spring onion, coriander sprigs, to serve
Tamarind and mango sambal
- 8 French shallots, coarsely chopped
- 5 long red chillies, coarsely chopped
- 2 bird’s eye chillies, coarsely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, bruised
- 20 g belacan (shrimp paste)
- 90 g (¼ cup) tamarind pulp (see Note)
- 500 ml (2 cups) boiling water
- 20 g palm sugar, shaved (optional)
- 1 tbsp fish sauce, or more to taste
- 1 large mango, flesh diced
- 1 tomato, halved, seeds removed, diced
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Freezing time 1 hour
To prepare your crab humanely, place it in the freezer or submerge in an ice bath for 1 hour.
Remove the upper shell of the crab, pick off the gills and discard. Clean the crab under running water and drain. Chop the crab in half with a heavy cleaver. Next, divide each half in half again, leaving two legs on each portion. With the back of the cleaver, gently crack each claw – this makes it easier to extract the meat.
To make the sambal, puree the shallots, chilli, garlic and belacan in a small food processor. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Cook the sambal for 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly until very fragrant.
Meanwhile, soak the tamarind pulp in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Strain the pulp by pushing it through a fine sieve with the back of a spoon, and discard any seeds.
Add the tamarind water and palm sugar, if using, stir to combine, then bring to the boil. Add the crab pieces and fish sauce, and stir to coat. Reduce heat to medium. Cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes, tossing the wok occasionally until the crab is cooked and the shell is bright red. Add the mango and tomato, toss to combine, then immediately remove from the heat.
Transfer the crab to a platter. Squeeze over lime juice and garnish with spring onion and coriander.
Serve as part of a shared meal.
• You can buy tamarind pulp from gourmet and Asian food shops.