Home > Food, Travel, Wine > Shamini’s Crab Curry

Shamini’s Crab Curry

Hello there Radio Helderberg listeners. For those of you who listened to me on my show this afdternoon, here’s the recipe I presented.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes Cooking Time: 20 minutes Yield: 6

Dear friend Shamini Pillay married Dr Michael Schaaf (lucky Michael) who, after living in South Africa for a few years, whisked her off to Germany, where they lived for the next six years. They returned to South Africa on Christmas Day last year, and the next day they arrived for the long awaited visit.

A forewarning telephone from Shamini (now Schaaf) caused me to visit my favourite fishmonger, Claudio Paioni, from whom I acquired two packs of dressed crab. For the uninitiated, “dressed” means beautifully cleaned and ready to cook; not dolled up in a tutu and ballet pumps, or a little black number and stilettos.

By her own admission, Shamini never cooked at home, but her mum’s kitchen prowess was legendary, so I ‘m convinced that the magic of Indian cuisine must have rubbed of on her. When she came to formulate this recipe some years after leaving home, that collective conscience of Indian cuisine, osmotically acquired during her formative years, no doubt had significant influence.

Ingredient Selection and Preparation

2x 900g boxes dressed crab: As Shamini says, the tough part about making crab curry is cleaning the crab, a messy unpleasant job, which is why using dressed crab makes so much sense! Wash the crab well under running cold water. Break the claws of the thorax, and if the crabs are very large, break off the legs as well. Crack each of the claws lightly to allow the sauce to enter while cooking. I used a pair of water pump pliers, the type with adjustable jaws – very thoroughly cleaned of course – to just crack each claw. Be careful you do not crush them completely or they fall part and the flesh falls out during cooking.

2 x 400gm cans tomatoes: one of the local food manufacturers – which might have belonged to Cecil John – is doing chopped peeled tomatoes at a good price, otherwise, chop ‘em in the can with scissors.

2tsp tomato paste

2 x 400gm cans coconut milk: the full cream version, not the lite according to Shamini, which makes for a sauce which is too watery.

1 large onion: finely chopped.

50ml canola oil

1 tsp garlic/ginger: that’s the bottled variety, which Shamini brought with her. I’m inclined to crush fresh garlic, and peel and grate fresh ginger, but the choice is yours.

½ tsp cinnamon

2tsp garam masala

4tsp masala: this is the tough one, because it tends to be so personal. Shamini dug in my spice drawer, and came up with two boxes of masala given me by my friend Graham Kershaw, after a trip to Mumbai. He bought them from a small spice store, near the hotel where he stayed, called Michael Moodley’s Spice Emporium. I haven’t looked, but I’d suspect they’re available locally. 2tsp each of Sambar Masala, from south India, and 2tsp of Dhansak Masala, a Parsi masala, brought to India by Persian immigrants who settled in western India some 1000 years ago.

Basmati rice


Heat a large saucepan – and by large, I mean one that will hold all of the crab pieces in a single layer – and add the canola oil.

Saute the onion, adding a ½tsp of cinnamon. I must say that I am a convert to this practice. I’ve resisted it strenuously, despite much pressure from wife Eppie and daughter Alex, but when I tasted what a difference it made to the flavour, I succumbed.

When the onion is almost golden brown, add the garlic and ginger, garam masala and Dhanask and Sambar masalas. Fry for another five minutes.

Add the two cans of tomatoes and 2tsp tomato paste. Stir together well, and cover and simmer until the tomatoes are cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the crab and two cans of coconut milk and bring to the boil.

Turn down and simmer until all the crab is cooked. You’ll know this once each piece of shell has turned bright orange!

Serve on a bed of basmati rice, with a chopped salad.


Wine of the Week

The dish is not particularly spicy, since Shamini, uncharacteristically does not eat very spicy food. Since a semi-sweet or sweet white was not called for, we opened a bottle of 2008 Tukulu Chenin Blanc and it was just perfect.

A pale straw yellow in colour, it has a faint green tinge.

The nose offers crisp lemon/lime notes with stone fruit and pear undertones.

Citrus flavours dominate the fore palate, underpinned by sweet melon notes, and the mid palate is supported by well integrated wood.

The finish is rich and long, with a fruity lift at the end.

Categories: Food, Travel, Wine
  1. November 29, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    thanks for the great information…

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