goan dungeness crab stew


Nik Sharma

Hey Friends, I’m a multi-award-winning and best-selling cookbook author and photographer.

mouth of wilson, virginia| A Brown Table

We just wrapped up one major storm last weekend! Sadly, this tree that I’ve always wanted to see fell. Both Snoopy and Vesper Lynx don’t like to get wet but they sure do love sitting by the window and watch everyone else on the road get drenched. Now,  I’m off to NYC this week for a quick trip to the James Beard Foundation for a summit but I hope to also try a couple of new spots in the city. If you have any recommendations, share them below, please!

mouth of wilson, virginia| A Brown Table

I’m also reading a few lovely books and I’ve added them to my kitchen library in the reference section; the La Boite Spice Companion and the new Cooks Science book. Both have a lot of useful information in them with photographs. I’ve also been meaning to share these photos from our farm in Virginia but haven’t had a chance to get them sorted out until now. I bet last week must have been lovely with all the snow and frost covered mountains of the Appalachian range.

Some of you had seen my Instagram post in December of the delicious Dungeness crab curry my mom had cooked up while she was visiting us. I finally got the recipe from her and I’m sharing it here. We started with live crabs at home but you can swap in precooked crabs. If you’re on the East coast, Maryland blue crabs work very well here but avoid using soft shell crabs as they’re better off being deep fried. 

[you might have noticed that, I keep avoiding the word “curry” and use “stew” whenever possible. I don’t like to use it since it really isn’t a word used in Indian cooking and its usage tends to oversimplify the breadth and variety of Indian gravy based dishes. e.g. pork vindaloo, butter chicken, dal, etc.]

mouth of wilson, virginia| A Brown Table

mouth of wilson, virginia| A Brown Table

mouth of wilson, virginia| A Brown Table

mouth of wilson, virginia| A Brown Table

mouth of wilson, virginia| A Brown Table

mouth of wilson, virginia| A Brown Table

Kitchen Notes:

  • Use fresh crabs, I prefer to buy live ones but if that’s not possible, go with what you can find at your local fish mart. Dungeness and Blue crabs are my favorites for this recipe.
  • Buy fresh unsweetened grated coconut if you can or grate it yourself in a blender. The other option is to find the frozen bags of grated coconut from Asian markets. The same goes for the curry leaves and Kashmiri chiles. 
  • Also, a note from my mom: Use Kashmiri chiles and not any other chili here. Kashmiri chiles are not that hot but give great flavor and color. If you want the curry to be hotter, toss in one or two whole green or red Thai chili peppers to the blender.
  • Traditionally, I grew up eating this stew with steamed rice but you can eat it with Indian flatbread such as roti or parathi. I find that naan doesn’t pair too well with this. 
  • I use tamarind paste and the not concentrate in this recipe. You can also buy tamarind and soak 1 cup of the fruit (remove and discard the shell) and add it to 1 cup of warm water for about 1 to 2 hours. Strain this liquid and use as needed. Also, Mexican tamarind is a little sweeter than the Indian variety so keep this in mind. As always, taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

goan crab curry |A Brown Table

my mom’s dungeness crab curry

yields: 4 servings


4 whole dungeness crabs or Maryland Blue crabs or whatever crabs you like (avoid softshell crabs here) * (see notes above)

1/2 cup fresh grated coconut (unsweetened)** (see notes above)

2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups diced onion

6 Kashmiri chilies

6 to 7 curry leaves (fresh/dry)

1/2 teaspoon cumin

8 to 10 black peppercorns

1 tablespoon coriander

1 1/2  teaspoons turmeric powder

1 inch piece peeled ginger root

1 tablespoon chopped garlic (about 4 cloves)

1 teaspoon tamarind paste

1 cup tap water

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves

1. Clean the crabs as shown here

2. In a medium-sized stockpot, heat 1 tablespoon of the ghee/oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until they just start to turn translucent. Remove the onions and transfer to a blender. Add all the ingredients from the chilies to the tamarind to the blender. Pulse until you get a smooth paste and all the ingredients are completely combined, adding minimal tap water as needed to help the ingredients move. Heat the remaining ghee/oil in the same stockpot on medium-high heat and transfer the contents of the blender to the stockpot. Stir with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes until the paste starts to separate from the fat. Add the salt, cleaned crabs, and the remaining tap water, if you want the stew a little thinner add more water. Stir to coat the crabs evenly and increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover with the stockpot with a lid. Allow to cook for about 5 to 10 minutes until the crabs are cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Remove from stove, garnish with cilantro and serve immediately with steamed rice. 


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