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Crabs at a pinch

Monday, November 1, 2010

Baked crabs
There was no getting out of the task – for this dish, ­­it was necessary to get crabs and dress them myself.

What I didn't do was buy live crabs, which is the best way to start out. But it was a day before I had to hand in the article for Don't Call Me Chef, and I  hadn't even started on the Prawn Varai I was featuring, as well as the baked crabs for this post that links to the newspaper column (here's the link; the theme is Deepavali dishes) so I just popped into the nearest hypermarket one morning and got the crustaceans from there. 

But as it turned out, the crabs I got must have just arrived even if they weren't alive anymore, because they still smelled fresh.

This is the first time I have cleaned crabs. I am not squeamish and have no problem with guts – I just never learned how to do it. So I googled "how to clean crabs" and found several sites and some bonus information about boy and girl crabs, and I just got down to the task. Not as difficult as I had imagined, I must say.

You can boil or steam the crabs to extract the meat, but I think steaming prevents the flesh from getting too wet. It only takes seven minutes – once the shells go pink, they're done. Be careful when removing the flesh as the pincers of blue crabs have spikes on them. I have a gash in my left thumb from being pierced by one of those spikes. I don't know why I can't do anything in the kitchen without getting hurt.

Pinch me, I must be dreaming
The Mr Silu of the recipe title is Mr S. Siluvairasa, the proprietor of the Yarl Beach Inn in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, when I was there in August 2003 (I speak of him in my contribution to the column). He was a wonderful cook and opened his guest house not only to boarders, but dinner guests as well and when I stayed there, he always had a large number of diners coming by. These baked crabs were one of his specialties.

The crabs he used were meaty but not as large as the one I have here. They were about the size of a bar of soap and normally, each diner would be served two of these. I remember Mr Silu saying that he used to fry the stuffed crabs before he got an oven, and that is how many people still prepared it then.

Serves 2-3

2 large blue crabs (about 800g)
½ tsp mustard powder
4 shallots, finely chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
½ tsp curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2cm ginger, finely chopped
1 sprig curry leaves, leaves removed and finely sliced
1 beaten egg
4 tablespoons finely grated cheese (use any hard cheese)
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • Clean the crabs. Remove the carapace carefully and set aside. 
  • Remove the pincers and cut the crabs in half. Steam the crabs for 10 minutes or until the shells turn pink.Cool, then remove the flesh from the shells. Mix the flesh with mustard powder, shallots, chillies, curry powder, and salt and pepper to taste; set aside.
  • Fry garlic, ginger and curry leaves for 1-2 minutes. Add crab flesh; stir-fry until lightly golden. Remove from pan and cool. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  • Mix the egg with the crab. Stuff mixture into shells. Mix cheese and breadcrumbs together; sprinkle over the filling. Bake the stuffed crabs until topping is golden, 12-15 minutes. If the topping browns too quickly, cover the pan with foil to ensure that the filling is heated through. Serve immediately.


  1. My favourite seafood! Looks so good! But I hate cleaning and extracting the crabmeat so I'll just leave this to the professionals lol!

  2. All the effort was worth it because this is very good! It would make a very impressive dinner party dish too, I think, and everyone can eat crabs elegantly! You must try it Jeannie!

  3. Marty,
    Crab is my favorite seafood and my hubby always marvel of how I have he patient to eat them. This dish reminds me of my grandma, when she was alive, she will make this for me every now and then. She stayed in a village about 1 hour bicycle ride to my home in town. She will put the stuffed crabs in a little basket covered with a towel and cycle all the way to my home just to give me the dish. I must get the recipe from my aunty and make this. Your photo of the stuffed crabs is fabulous and I am sure it taste divine!

  4. Thanks Quay Po! I will certainly be looking out for your aunty's recipe on your blog. Your husband won't have any trouble eating it, I'm sure.


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