This Coconut Chilli Crab is a lip smacking aromatic and flavourful dish with a lingering taste that makes my mouth water each time I think about it. The sweet juicy roasted coconut flavour combined with the subtle aroma of the light spices and heat from the chillies that lightly sears your taste buds and the sweet taste of the crab flesh that is so flavourful yet not overpowered by the spices, is utter bliss indeed. I felt like I was on cloud 9 enjoying this delectable crab dinner with the coconut rice and the steamed bok choy that complemented it so much.
I would say that I created this dish out of fluke because of a small mistake in the process of cooking. But as the dish developed it took a different turn.
I had some dried red chillies soaking in vinegar. So I ground them to a paste using all the vinegar. After sautéing the crab in the ground coconut masala I drizzled some of this chilli paste into the pot. Thank God I added a little……but the crab masala tasted so tangy! I realized what a blunder it was adding up all the vinegar (which must have been at least 1/4 cup) to grind the chillies. I realized that the sour taste was killing the dish. I had to do something about it……. add something which should fix the taste. Whatever I would add now can either make it a hotchpotch dish of undesirable taste or a unique blend of flavours that sing in praise of each other. I looked around and spotted the pack of fried onions which gave me hope. I took a good 2 tbs, mixed in some red chilli, cumin and salt, then ground them up quickly and tossed this spicy ground onion masala into the pot. My jaw dropped when I tasted it. This magical potion not only took away the sourness but also infused a unique flavour which elevated the crab dish to a new dimension I could not have imagined. It was sensational!
1 whole Dungeness crab 1 1/2 lbs
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp black peppercorns
4 green chillies
2 tbs chopped cilantro
2 tbs fried onions (store bought)
1/4 tsp roasted cumin powder
1/2 – 1 tsp red chilli powder
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
2 tbs unsalted butter
1/4 cup oil (coconut or olive oil)
For the red chilli paste:
6 dried red chillies
2 tbs white vinegar
For the coconut ground masala
1/2 a large onion sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh coconut or dessicated coconut
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
4 garlic cloves
Fried onion masala:
2 tbs fried onions
1/2 – 1 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1. Soak 6 red chillies in 2 tbs of white vinegar for a couple of hours or overnight then grind them with the vinegar to a coarse paste.
2. Scrape the shell of the crab with a knife, rub the shell with salt and clean the crab pieces well. Rinse well in cold running water, drain and keep aside.
3. Lightly fry the coconut slices in a tsp of oil till they are lightly brown. Remove then add the cumin and coriander seeds to the pan and when they change colour and emit an aroma, throw in the 1/2 sliced onion quickly just till it softens. Remove and set aside. Crush the garlic cloves and sizzle them in the same pan in a few drops of oil till they change colour a bit and become aromatic, then remove.
4. Put all the roasted ingredients and the fried coconut in a grinder when they cool down grind them to a paste adding a little water. Keep the ground coconut masala paste aside.
5. In a pot or kadai add the 1/4 cup oil and the unsalted butter. When hot enough drop in the bay leaf, the cloves, slit green chillies and coarsely pounded pepper, then immediately add the crab. Sprinkle some salt on it, turn over and quickly fry in the oil for 1 minute, then add just 2 tbs of the *chilli paste, 1/2 tsp turmeric followed by the ground coconut masala. Mix well.
6. Sprinkle half a cup of water from the sides of the pot, cover with a lid and simmer for 2 minutes.
7. Meanwhile to make the fried dry onion masala, take 2 tbs of the crispy fried onions (store bought pack) and mix in 1/2 to 1 tsp chilli powder, 1/4 tsp roasted cumin powder then grind them
8. Now open the lid from the pot, stir the crab dish, taste to adjust the salt. Then sprinkle this ground fried dry onion masala on the crab, followed by chopped cilantro and then garam masala powder. You could also add some crushed black pepper and red chilli flakes if you want it more spicy. Turn over and mix well. Simmer till the water gets absorbed and the masala just sticks to it as seen in the pictures.
1. *Chilli paste: To make chilli paste soak 6 dried long red chillies in 2 tbs vinegar and leave them overnight, then grind them to a paste.
2. I prefer using Shaan’s garam masala powder as it not only is aromatic like homemade but also has saffron in it which makes it even more appealing to the taste buds.
3. You could use unsweetened shredded coconut if you don’t have fresh coconut and toast it in the same way as given in the recipe.
4. You could omit the crushed black pepper and red chilli flakes in the final step if you don’t want it too spicy. You can add or reduce the red chilli powder, black pepper according to your desirable spice level.
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