Saturday, April 1, 2017

Cheat’s Crab Curry

I love curries, whether Indian, Malay or even Chinese. Not sure about Japanese though. Chinese chicken curry is great, especially when served with laksa noodles. Nothing beats a fish curry when it’s given a slightly tangy twist. I’m fortunate to be living in a city where all of the above is readily available. I just had a lovely Northern Indian meal last night, redolent with spices, yogurt and naan breads. But I don’t cook curries. I’m defeated by the complex mix of fresh and dried spices, especially when my pantry only has the very basic spices. When recipes call for coriander and cumin seeds to be freshly ground, that’s when I give up and head for my favorite Indian restaurant.

What I do when I want to attempt a curry at home (which is very rarely) is buy a curry paste in a packet. I have a couple of tried-and-tested go-to brands which help me whip up a curry in a matter of minutes. All I have to do is add some water, whatever meat or vegetables I want, and maybe some coconut milk at the end.

A staple in my pantry is Tean’s Gourmet past for vegetable curry. It’s Malaysian style, so it’s probably a fusion of Indian, Malay and Chinese spices and sauces, resulting in a fragrant, mellifluous curry that’s great with rice or noodles. I add vegetables like snake beans and eggplant, as well as tofu puffs, and it tastes great.

When friends decided to have an Indian-themed cookout recently, I decided to try my hand at Indian crab curry. Having had it in Indian restaurants and once, at a friend’s house, I knew it would be a complicated affair. So I headed to a neighborhood market where I had heard of a lady who supplies  freshly made curry pastes for any kind of curry you want to cook.

After googling it, I decided to make a visit to Liza’s curry paste stall in the market. Tucked in between vegetable stalls and opposite a fresh coconut milk stand was a sweet lady behind mounds of what looked like freshly ground onions, garlic, chillies and other unidentifiable (to me at least!) spices. When I told her I wanted to attempt a crab curry, Indian style, she asked how many crabs I was intending to cook and started to scoop up various ground spices and herbs. She did it totally freehand, without measuring!

Useful tip - fry the crabs first.
She gave me advice on how to cook the dish - fry the crabs first, coated in a light curry powder. Add sliced onions and tomatoes to the paste when frying. Then vegetables of my choice, whether beans, okra or eggplant. And a smidgeon of tamarind paste and coconut milk at the end. She even threw in a large onion and a bunch of curry leaves into the bag she handed me. All for a ridiculously affordable price. I would have spent hours poring over the recipe and measuring out those ingredients. Hurray for Liza!

Slowly panfry the curry paste.
So I trotted across the aisle to get some fresh coconut milk and around the corner to pick up some swimmer crabs. Then it was a matter of going home, cleaning the crabs and frying them up. I did spend some time on the curry paste, slowly panfrying it over a low heat until it was fragrant. It would probably have tasted better if I had one of those Indian claypots but I had to make do with my trusty wok. Then I just dumped the rest of the ingredients in and whipped up what I thought was a pretty decent crab curry.

After cleaning up and heading off to my lunch party, I cam home to the smell of curry in my kitchen. And the rest of the apartment. It’s been a few days already and even though I cleaned down the surfaces and sprayed Febreze liberally, I can still smell curry. The spices which smell so good when fresh are pretty overpowering, which is why I may have to reconsider cooking Indian curry again. Until the urge to eat crab curry hits!

PS: If you don’t have a Liza waiting in the market for you with all her fresh curry pastes, you’ll just to google a recipe for crab curry. I did and read it till I was cross-eyed

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