Sunday, January 27, 2008

Njandu Varutharachathu – Crab Cooked in Roasted & Ground Coconut gravy

Crabs…..crabs….crabs…all over…..few on our kitchen counter......few crawling on the kitchen floor……..some breaking my fingers with their claws…..some hanging on my apron…….!!!

This was almost like a nightmare for me whenever I thought of buying crabs from our International store where they sell fresh crabs which literally crawl, on top of one another, in that big container and people are given something like tongs to catch them and put then in a brown paper bag. The only time I curse myself for not staying with my mother in the kitchen and not learning how to clean and cut fresh crabs!! I had to suppress my cravings whenever my mother casually told me , “…oh…we got some crab today…..and I made your favorite Varutharacha curry and it came out very tasty as the crab was really fresh this time….your father was feasting on it.....” Phew!!!! And ever since I started blogging, I was lucky enough to get good blogger friends who religiously posted crab dishes every now and then and made me salivate!!

Finally I decided to conquer my fears of handling crabs and as a first step, I bought some cooked King crab legs from a local store and made some Crab Roast and oh boy, I was floored! It was so flavorful and tasty that I wanted to eat more and try all those scrumptious dishes my mother makes. Luckily last time when we went to the store, I saw the shop assistant at the seafood section cleaning and cutting “the crawling yummies” …….I was uncertain of only one thing, whether to hug the guy or jump up and down!! Though I had my own fears of cooking fresh crab for the time, I bought some and made my favourite Njandu Varutharacha curry or curried crab in roasted ground coconut gravy and yes, I did get some gratification finally! :)

This curried crab in roasted and ground coconut gravy is one of my mother’s specials and one of my favourite seafood preparations. Roasted ground coconut has a distinct and powerful taste and when the seafood flavour is blended with this, it elevates this dish to a whole new level where the aroma is just irresistible. This is a MUST TRY for all crab lovers and when I say it IS a delightful seafood preparation, you have to trust me as even CJJ who has not eaten crab much, especially with the shells, was gorging on this dish and it was sort of funny and cute at the same, him eating the crabs with both his hands :)

  1. 5 medium crabs, thoroughly cleaned and cut into two parts
  2. 3-4 Indian green chillies, crushed
  3. 2 small cloves of garlic, crushed
  4. A small piece, around ½ inch, of ginger crushed
  5. ½ tsp freshly ground pepper powder
  6. ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  7. ½ tsp salt
  8. 1 small piece of Kudam-Puli/Gamboge
  9. Water to cook
  10. 1/3 cup small cubed potatoes
For Dry Roasting:
  • 2 ½ tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp chilly powder
For Roasting and Grinding:
  • ½- ¾ cup grated coconut
  • 2 small pearl-red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 small clove of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 small pinches of fennel seeds/Perinjeerakam
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
For the Masala Powder:
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds/Perinjeerakam
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 small broken 1” inch sticks of cinnamon
  • 1 cardamom
For seasoning:
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • A handful of thinly sliced big onions
  • Make the Masala Powder: Grind the whole spices, noted in the Masala Powder section, to make a fine powdered spice mix.
  • Make roasted & ground coconut Paste: Heat 1 tbsp coconut oil, add grated coconut, thinly sliced small red onions, garlic and fennel seeds and roast, in low heat, till it becomes nice and brown ( do not burn it); put everything in the small jar of mixer or coffee grinder and grind till it turns to be a smooth paste.(Note: If you re using frozen grated coconut, you may have to add few drops of water, while grinding, to make it a paste; please note that adding water dilutes the roasted flavour.)
  • Dry Roasted spice Paste: Dry roast the coriander powder in low heat for few minutes, till the raw smell goes and the colour changes; repeat the same for chilly powder as well, without burning the spice powders at all. Keep these dry roasted powders aside add 1 tbsp water to make a smooth paste.
  • Cooking Crab: In a “curry-chatty” or any earthenware, add all the ingredients from 1 to 10 and add water, just enough to cover all the pieces, and bring it to a boil, in medium heat and cook for around 10 minutes (Note: Crab gets cooked fast). At this stage reduce the heat, add the dry roasted spice paste of coriander powder and chilly powder and bring to a boil and then add the masala powder; stir well and let it boil again. When it boils, add the roasted and ground coconut paste and mix well with the rest of the ingredients in the cooking vessel and let it boil, in low-medium heat and then let it slow cook for some more time or till the gravy gets a bit thick and creamy; Do a salt-test and switch off the stove when it is done. In another pan, heat 1 tbsp coconut oil and splutter mustard seeds, dried red chillies, thinly sliced big onion and sauté till it turns transparent; tear some curry leaves and add it to this seasoning and pour the whole thing to the cooked crab and gently stir to blend the seasoning with the curry; close the lid and let it rest for 30 minutes before serving.
  • Serve warm with rice, chappathi (Indian flat bread) or palappam (Kerala’s laced pancakes)
Note: While cleaning the crab, remove the yellow layers and keep the orange ones which is crab eggs. Back home at kerala its called “Ponnu” and add this only towards the end of cooking , i.e just two minutes before turning off the stove prior to the seasoning part. The colour: According to my mother, the color of the curry depends on how well you brown/roast the grated coconut. If the coconut is not browned evenly it will lack the rich dark brown colour which is missing in my pictures. So if you get dark rich brown colour, then it has come out how it has to be.

Crab Roast is already in my drafts and will post it soon. Watch out this space for more crab preparations….. :)

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.


  1. Don't know if I'll ever be 'brave' enough to cook crabs. I haven't even tasted them actually :)

  2. Njandu kazhikkarillengilum njanividathe njandu priyanmarkku vendi prepare cheyyarundu, I think it is the difficult thing to eat..:) aano? curry ugran aayittundu...:)

  3. I am not familiar with crabs...your dish does look very tempting though :-)

  4. jeevan ulla the thanne vanguuuu..pls..aa scene orthitte ,enikke vayyaaaa..
    Your curry looks Super..My Varutharach recipe is almost similar,I add a pinch of jaggery too...

  5. Please send me that curry...I really mean it. I don't have the guts to buy crabs, I might have nightmares!!:)

  6. I am LOVING that cast iron pan, so beautiful, looks like Chatti!!

    Happy Monday shn. You know I have never tasted Crab curry but I have made southern style Crab cakes which I love! Curry looks delicious!:))

  7. Yum! We get live crabs too.. But never cooked it this way. Looks like a must try.

  8. wow..njandu...looks delicious..
    Glad that u finallu conquered u'r we could see this delicious dish.This 8.45 am here and i haven't had my breakfast yet..but started drooling over this yummoo...:)

  9. shn, the curry-chatti is gorgeous! Is this is the soapstone one? I wish I could get one.

  10. Ohhhhhh I love crab.
    I have never made them. But when i was home my mom used to make them when ever there was crab available.
    I can just imagine eating those Delicilous

  11. oh my! yummy gravy curry shn..wmy crab curries never have this much gravy.i had a manchatti exactly like that.. broke!

  12. Oh how much I love crabs Shn.My favourite way to eat it is, simply boiled crabs with no added flavourings specially if I get good crabs.The meat has such a distinct delicate flavour that it is best as is.Try and see if you like it that way:)

  13. Shn!! Crab looks so delicious!Its my favourite but had couple of bad experiences when I tried cooking here, may be uk crabs are different to Indian ones. After looking at those yummy pics, I;m craving now!!

  14. 'varutharacha curry 'looks delicious,Shn.Tho ,am not very fond of crabs,nish is very crazy about these....&everytime I make sure they're already cut &cleaned........:)surely going to try this one at the earliest...

  15. OMG. I love crabs. it has been 3+ years since I ate it(other than of course my mom preparing it for me on my yearly trip back to India and my MIL running crazy all over TVM trying to find some crab curry from restaurant). I love crabs. I guess once u conquer the fear it is easy. my husband went thru the trauma when I was pregnant, to make crab. It is like my mom's recipe. i think the fennel seeds make this a great preparation.

  16. Hey..I love crabs. They are my fav seafood. Its a very long time..I haven't tasted them. Thanks for a lovely dish Shn. I will give this a try soon.

  17. Hi shn:
    I recently found out your blog and you have got a good collection of kerala recipes. Beautiful pictures also.


  18. Crab is one of my most fav seafood. I never made it with coconut in it.Looks so yummy. I gotta try this recipe.

  19. Entammo! What a kidillum blog! Now whenever I feel hungry I just cook some rice, read a couple of posts on the blog and imagine my appetite satiated. *Burp* (Not really... I sometimes don't even bother with the rice.)

  20. You have some courage, Shn! I get scared of the sight of crabs etc :-D. Hey, and love the idea of this gravy, i am gonna' make a vegetarian version of it. And there's another reason why i totally loved this post: the masala recipe in the end :). One of my friends from Kerala told me about this recipe: fennel, cloves, cinnamomn and cardamom! Simple and yet ever sooooooooooooooo fragrant! And it is super-versatile! I snaek that masala into a lot of dishes, with always fabulous results. Hugs to you for featuring this.

  21. Nice chatty and crab cooked in that will be awesome !! The masala for this curry is so similar to a varutharacha meen curry i make. If only i could get some fresh crabs now ~ sigh !

  22. I love Kerala style crab curry, but since Siv takes care of all the crab handling in my house, including cooking, I haven't had this in a while... I only make stuff with crab meat already out of the shell... You are a brave girl :)

  23. I love, love, love crabs soooooo much. They are hands down my absolute favorite seafood and this preparation is just making me drool! Now, I just need to find me some live crabs and get cooking... :) Thanks for a great recipe, Shn!

  24. This is one dish I have never had in my life.though would love to try it any time i get a chance..somehow crab was a fogotten dish in our homes..folks thought it more stimulating to dissect a meeninte thala!;-p

    But now I know what to ask anytime I come you home..i simply love the pic..and the name of the dish is really welcoming..awesome as always..

    btw heard that DHL has reduced charges these days..i was just metioning..hehehe.. ;-P

  25. i'm drooling!!!! eegane grandma makes this curry well...after coming here..whenever i see crabs at tempts in making them..i'm not confident in cooking them...plz pass that chatti over here...missing crabs alot :(

  26. wow, I'm craving it now Shn. This looks gorgeous.

  27. Hey Shn, I can clean the crab for you. It was always my job at home. Do you want to invite me? I will clean and you can cook :D.

  28. Ohhhhhhhh - It was just like me writing about crab.. Ditto ditto here.
    I see the soft shell blue crabs live and kickin - and I dont know how to clean them.. Do you have some pictorials to clean them ? Btw how do u kill them ?
    I am droooling here :(

  29. that gravy looks so temting mishmash ,nice recipe

  30. Cleaning crab is one of the things I never learnt to do, I was and still am too afraid :) I don't get fresh ones here only frozen :( back in Guyana, I'd have the vendor clean it for me :)

    "...I was lucky enough to get good blogger friends who religiously posted crab dishes every now and then and made me salivate!! - and now you are doing the same to me (lol)

  31. Cant say much abt the taste.... But the pic looks beautiful!!

  32. Shn - crabs are a fav. I have never touched them alive dear. n i dont think I will ever do so. I have the privilege of have my mom stay nearby n she makes this awesome curry with loads of kurumulagu. Makes me salivate right away. N i dont even need any rice to go with it, just plain pure bliss with great tasting flesh....though its a pain to take the shell away, ....but arent all good things hard to come by??

  33. lol... thats a funny dream u get mishy. for me its snakes crawling on my body.... gosh!!! i am scared to even think abt it although i have held few snakes in my hand including cobra.
    i love that small kadai u have there. i guess the only other time i saw in ur blog was the first time i visited. ur first post i guess, some fish recipe. is that an earthen ware? i just love it:)

  34. Salute!!! You conquer the fear! But look at the outcome, what a GORGEOUS dish!!! I'd line up at 5:00am if one day, you opened a restaurant even just selling this wonderful njandu varutharachathu!

  35. shn,yet another mouth watering dish from heard tht blue crab is very tasty..ithu athano?

  36. Nags, trust me you re missing out one of the best seafood try it somehow, or see if you can find someone to cook this one for you :)

    Seena, athey....kazhikkan kurachu budhimuttanu......cheriya oru skill venam :)

    Sunita, you should try for sure as it has quite a rich seafood flavour ...but get the ones already cleaned....else it is too much of job for beginners like me :)

    KF, jaggery-yo..? athonnu try cheyyanamallo....:)

    Jyothsna, I have heard that you have shops there which sells cleaned ones, so look for that.....happy to know that i am not the only who has nightmares about crabs :))

    Asha, I will post some more recipes which you try with crab meat....for such preps , I get the cooked crab legs we get here...its quite flavorful, so you can try then :) Thats a curry chatti and not a cast iron pan :)

    RP, yes it is :)

    Maheswari, hahah.....yeah..for crab lovers such dishes are irresistible :))

    Evolvingtastes, it is made of clay ...i got it from Kerala :)

    Happycook, I am so fond of crab , so now I am happy I made an attempt and getting more comfortable with the idea of cooking it.....see if you can find some good variety there :)

    Mallugirl, this is my third curry chatti that survived the travel and customs....kannu vekkalle...aake onne ullooo :)))

    Sumitha, I get your point but I am not sure how much I will be able enjoy without any flavorings...mummy makes it with some basic seasoning which I love :) There are many Asian restaurant here where they serve crabs your way :)

    Padmaja, yeah, that could be one of the reasons.....I wish I could send you some....those who love crabs can never resist them , so I know how hard it is for you :)

    liz, oh i dont think i can handle the live ones....i really wish next time i go to that store, they have some fresh and cleaned ones :)

    Mocha, your MIL is very sweet,dear :)and I know that you re a shellfish lover....will make it for you if you come over :) yeah fennel gives a very distinct taste to this dish which I love :)

    Shilpa, do try and let me know.....:) I really wish you like this prep :)

    Gj, hey thanks a lot for dropping the comment and also trying out the beef recipe...i am quite glad you and ur family enjoyed that dish :) Welcome here :)

    Shriya, roasted and ground coconut in any dish gives a nice smoky flavor to the do give it a try :)

    nmouse, i cant live without rice :) thanks for coming by...quite a warm welcome here :)

    Musical, yeah you can add this masala to your veggie creations, especially kurmas....:) Hugs to you too :)

    Pravs, I should thanks you for inspiring me with your crab preps :)

    Sig, nothing to be brave about if you get everything cleaned....:) next time ask Siv to stop at the cleaning phase and hand over the cleaned ones to you :)

    kalai, if you re a crab lover and if you enjoy the roasted ground coconut gravy, then you will surely enjoy this dish :)

    Mathew, ohh...dissecting meen thala is much more easier compared to taking crab meat out of its shell. Next time when you go home,ask amma to make this for you.....vettil vannal undakki tharam pakshe dont expect me to serve you any beef dishes as i have a policy of not serving beef dishes to achayans....:))engane undakki koduthalum achayan taste kitteella ennu parayum :))

    Remya, come over, I will cook this for you :) check out the asian stores, they might get it cleaned for you.....

    Mandira, thank you :)

    Shilpa, you re always welcome at our place, dear...lets have a blast :) we have lots in common :)

    Revathi, the killing part, I am not sure, I think you have to put them in icecold water, not sure though! check these links for the pictorial:

    Sagari, thanks so much :)

    Cynthia, Though I want to learn, I am very much afraid of them especially when I see them crawling :)) but one of the tastiest seafood delicacy right :)

    Remya, I know...thanks dear for dropping by :)

    Shella, yeah you re re so lucky to have your mom stay nearby.....I wish I could be like that one day!!!!!!

    Sia, you have touched snakes!!! ewww!! scary....! I get nightmares too , snakes slithering in my bed :(( yeah the curry chatti is an earthenware and you re right, it was featured in one of my first posts :)

    Gattina, hahha,,,,,I will give you a pass, you should not wait in the line :))

    Chithra, athey....I used the blue crab for this prep...and it was quite go ahead and buy few of them :)


  37. yumm yumm yumm,
    the crab curry looks yummy.
    cleaning crabs....tough job !!

    hey i really enjoy your site. i plan to try many recipes and have not saved any. if you plan to have only invited readers on your blog, do remember me too.

  38. Hi!
    i love your blog. but i was just wondering at point and how do i add inthe masala powder?, do i mix it witht the corriander and Chilli powder to make the paste?

    thanks so much for a wonderful recipe

  39. farah,thanks......:) at the moment i dont have any such plans....enjoy the recipes :)

    Mini, Good catch :) Sorry, I forgot to add that part...edited the post. Thanks again :) Let me know how it turned out for u !


  40. Hey!
    I tried it and it turned out really nice. they way i cook crab is a bit different but tasty in its own way. i can e-mail you the recipe if you like. Thanks again for the recipe.

  41. Mini thanks for the feedback and offer for the recipe. yes you can mail me is in copyright policy note.


  42. Jeevanulla Njandine pehdikenda. Aadyam athinde korunga, athaayathu 'pincers'pottichaal mathi. Pinne athinu onnum cheyyaan pattilla. Varutharacha njandu enikku ishtamanu..

  43. God, I am missing it sooooooo much, I am always from Kerala (Kozhikode) and in Delhi so no way I can access those crabs in here unless I go to a 5 star hotel. Ente vaayil vellam vannu thudangi.

  44. Hi Shn...ur crab curry looks delicious...I am going to try it soon though im a little scared of handling them... ur site...all the posts look so beautiful.

  45. tried it just now....good recipe..though i used spices in a slightly higher quantity...came out great...and the directions are very precise..
    thank u..

  46. Absolutely fantastic recipe...I tried it and everyone at home just loved it...


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.