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sauteeing Indian
Mangalore Crab Curry

Photo by: Joseph De Leo
Comments: 0


Mangalore, a city on the Konkan coast on the west coast of India, is renowned for its distinctive cuisine. The area is populated by distinct communities, each with its well-recognized specialties. Meat, poultry and seafood are all relished and cooked with quantities of coconut and spices. Kokum is a popular ingredient.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8


  • 2 cups (500 mL) grated coconut, fresh or frozen, thawed
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp (22 mL) cumin seeds
  • 24 dried Indian red chiles, broken in half, 12 with seeds removed
  • 10 green cardamom pods, cracked open
  • 1 stick cinnamon, about 2 inches (5 cm) long
  • 24 cloves garlic
  • 70 fresh curry leaves, divided (about 6 sprigs)
  • 1¼ tsp (6 mL) turmeric
  • ¼ cup (50 mL) oil
  • 4 lbs (2 kg) dressed crabs or 3 to 3½ lbs (1.5 to 1.75 kg) crab claws
  • 2 cans (each 14 oz/400 mL) coconut milk
  • 1½ tsp (7ml) salt
  • 20 kokum (Notes)


1. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast coconut in a single layer, stirring constantly, until golden and aromatic, 5 to 6 minutes. Watch it carefully, as coconut can burn easily. Transfer to a bowl.

2. In the same skillet, toast separately coriander, cumin, chiles, cardamom and cinnamon in that order until each is fragrant. The time will vary from a few seconds to up to 2 minutes. Take care not to burn. Add each to bowl with coconut.

3. Transfer coconut and spices to a blender and grind to a fine powder. Add garlic, 30 curry leaves and turmeric. Pour in ½ cup (125 mL) water and blend. Continue to add more water as needed, to make a smooth thick paste, scraping down sides of blender occasionally.

4. In a wide-bottomed saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add coconut paste and remaining curry leaves. Sauté, stirring continuously, until masala (mixture) turns a few shades darker and aromatic, 5 to 6 minutes. If necessary, deglaze pan with 1 tbsp (15 mL) water periodically while sautéing to prevent burning. Add crab and mix well. Sauté until crab is well seasoned with masala, 3 to 4 minutes.

5. Pour coconut milk into pan. Add salt and kokum. Shake pan to settle crab. Cover and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring periodically, until gravy is thickened, about 10 minutes. Serve hot over rice or with South Indian Rice and Lentil Crêpes.


Kokum (Garcinia indica) is the soft leathery skin of a deep purple, sour tropical fruit grown and used on the west coast of India. If unavailable, substitute 2 tbsp (25 mL) unsalted Thai tamarind purée.

© 2007 Suneeta Vaswani

Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

This recipe serves 8.

577kcal (29%)
288mg (29%)
12mg (19%)
25mcg RAE (1%)
202mg (67%)
2085mg (87%)
31g (154%)
38g (59%)
7mg (38%)

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