2 mud crabs or 4 blue swimmer or spanner crabs
3 tablespoons oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
sprig of fresh curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 stick cinnamon
2 teaspoons chilli powder or to taste
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 teaspoons salt
2 x 400 ml/14 fl oz cans coconut milk
2 cups drumstick leaves (optional)
3 tablespoons grated coconut or desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon ground rice
lime juice to taste
Clean crabs and divide each large crab into four portions, or smaller crabs into 2. Leave legs attached to body.
In a large saucepan heat oil and gently fry onion, stirring from time to time, until it is soft and transparent. Add garlic, ginger, curry leaves and fry for a few minutes longer, stirring. Add, all at once, the fenugreek seeds, cinnamon, chilli, turmeric, salt and 1 can of coconut milk made up to 1 litre (2 pints) with water. Stir while bringing to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Add crabs and drumstick leaves and cook for a further 20 minutes. Stir from time to time to ensure all the pieces of crab get a turn at cooking submerged in sauce.
In a dry frying pan toast the coconut until golden brown, stirring constantly. Turn out on a plate to cool. Roast the ground rice too in the same way until pale golden. Put both into an electric blender. Add half the second can of coconut milk and blend on high speed for 1 minute. Stir into simmering curry. Wash out blender with remaining coconut milk, add to pan and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, stir in lime juice and serve with boiled white rice.
Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)