Saturday, July 23, 2011

Soft Shell Crab Curry, Goan-Style

As we continue to enjoy our soft-shell crabs that we got from the Outer Banks (the greatest thing about frozen soft shell crabs is that we can enjoy them over time), I have been thinking about how I can use these crabs in different recipes.  I previously made Soft Shell Crab Po' Boys with an Avocado Remoulade.  Now, my mind turned to making a soft shell crab curry. 

I did not want to make just any curry.  I wanted to make a curry in the style of a particular city or region of India.  Two thoughts immediately came to mind -- Goa and Kerala.  Goa, which is the smallest state of India, is probably best known for Vindaloo, a spicy curry that is one of my favorites.  The two most prominent ingredients in a Goan curry are the chiles and tamarind.  I know a lot less about curries from Kerala, although I was able to find a crab curry dish called Njandu Kari, which is Crab Curry with Fried Coconut.  Eventually, I decided to make the curry in the Goan style.  I found a recipe from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, which I used as a guide for this dish.  This meant a spicy curry, along with a few firsts for me.

One of the firsts for me was to make a curry powder from scratch.  Fortunately, the recipe that I was using as a guide provided me with most of the ingredients to make the curry.  The one issue was that I did not have any fresh chiles such as Serranos or Thai chiles.  However, I did have dried chiles, particularly the Indian Sanaam chiles.  I used four of Sanaam chiles to make the curry.  Sanaam chiles are very spicy and, in turn, they made the curry very spicy.  While it was fine for me, it is probably too much for most people.  I would recommend that, for people trying this recipe for the first time, to use two or three Sanaam chiles, which will lessen the heat of the dish.

The other first for me was the use of fresh coconut.  I have never cooked with a fresh coconut before; and, after some Internet research, I was ready to use this ingredient.  For those who don't know (like me before this dish), you need to drain the coconut water by opening holes in the coconut.  There are three spots on the coconut, which are the weakest part of the nut.  Hammer a nail through each spot and then remove the nail to open the hole.  Then hammer a nail through the other end of the coconut to create a fourth hole.  Drain the coconut water and reserve it.  (I used it to make the rice for this dish.)  Then wrap the coconut in a towel and find the nearest slab of concrete.  Begin pounding on the coconut until you break it open. Once the coconut is opened, you need to cut out the flesh and then grate it for the recipe.  The recipe only needs a quarter cup of grated coconut, so you will have a lot left over.  

So, without further ado ...


SOFT SHELL CRAB CURRY, GOAN-STYLE
Adapted from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
4 soft shell crabs, cleaned
1 tablespoon of ground coriander
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
6 cloves
8 cardamom pods (I used 2 black pods and 6 green pods)
1 tablespoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
2 teaspoons of ground fenugreek
3 tablespoons of canola oil
2 medium onions, one finely diced, one sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
2-4 dried chiles (such as Sanaam chiles)
2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, minced
1 fourteen ounce can of coconut milk
1/4 cup of freshly grated coconut
1 heaping tablespoon of tamarind paste
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt, to taste

Directions:
1.  Make the curry mix.   Toast the peppercorns, cardamom, and cloves in a dry skillet until fragrant, about a couple of minutes.  Then take it off the heat and let it cool for a minute.  Grind the spices into a fine powder.  Add the coriander, cumin, fenugreek and chiles.  Grind to incorporate the chiles and spices with the other spices.

2.  Begin the saute.  Saute the chopped onion in one tablespoon of oil until soft without browning them.  Add the garlic and ginger, continuing to saute for about two more minutes.  

3.  Blend the ingredients.   Take the onion mixture and put it into a food processor or blender.  Add the spice mix and puree the onion mixture.  While pureeing the mixture, add the water.  

4.  Saute the soft shell crabs.  Heat two tablespoons of oil in a pan on medium high heat.  Add the soft shell crabs, top down.  Let the crabs saute for about three to four minutes and then flip them.  Cook them for another three to four minutes.  Remove them from the heat and cut each soft shell into quarters.

5.  Add the coconut and onions.  Pour the coconut milk into a pot and heat it over medium heat until it simmers.  Add the sliced onions and grated coconut and let it cook for three to four minutes at an active simmer.  

6.  Finish the dish.  Add the curry and mix well.  Add the tamarind paste and mix again.  Salt to taste.  Mix in the crab and cook until heated through.  Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro. 


Overall, I really liked this dish.  I think it was close to a Goan curry, because it was very spicy.  However, it was too spicy for Clare.  So, in that respect, I needed to pay a little more attention to the heat level.  After all, my Angel is my continuing inspiration for cooking and it is important for me to make sure that she can eat my dishes.  Until next time ...

ENJOY!

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