Nov 11, 2012

Nandu Masala - Crab Masala South Indian recipe

Nandu Masala - Crab Masala

One of the perks of growing up in Chennai is the endless supply of seafood that one has access to. Even though seafood was a regular in our Sunday lunch menus, crab has always been special.
When we visited SFO one summer, we went to the Fisherman's pier for the popular steamed crabs. But, the sheer volume of crab carcasses on the table and seeing the rush of people gobbling the meat down, turned my appetite off.
This is one of the few dishes that I like spicy hot.

Don't be fooled by the photo. I didn't make enough masala for the 6 big dungeness crabs that I cooked. I have adjusted my recipe to accommodate this. I will post a better photo when I cook this recipe next time.


  • Crab - 6 big ones
  • garam masala - bay leaf, fennel seeds
  • onion, chopped - 1
  • tomato, chopped - 1
  • ginger garlic paste - 1 tablespoon
  • red chili powder - 1/2 tablespoon
  • coriander powder - 2 tablespoon
  • black pepper, fresh cracked - 1 teaspoon
  • coconut, shredded (optional) - 1/2 cup
  • cilantro - for garnish
  • salt to taste
  • oil for sauteing


  1. Wash the crabs in a mix of cold water and vinegar. Clean the crabs (see tips).
  2. In a wide mouthed pan,  heat oil for sauteing. Add garam masala to the hot oil.
  3. When the masala has roasted well (look for fragrance), fry ginger-garlic paste in the hot oil.
  4. Add the chopped onion to this.
  5. When the onion turns translucent, add the chopped tomatoes.
  6.  Add a little salt to draw water out of the tomatoes.
  7. When the masala starts oozing oil, add chili and coriander powders and fry until the raw smell disappears.
  8. Add the cleaned crabs and black pepper.
  9. Crab meat will cook in 5 minutes. Once the meat has cooked (about 5 minutes), add shredded coconut to the pan. 
  10. In another 5 minutes, remove from heat and garnish with cilantro.
Serving this dish with fluffy white rice and a simple sauce/stew will help its delicate sweet taste shine.


  • Buying crab on or around the new moon day ensures that you get meaty crabs.
  • Using a lobster pick set, ply off all the claws/limbs before cooking. This helps manage the crab pieces easily.
  • If you buy fresh live crabs, here's a tip on how to prepare these for cooking: On reaching home, bring a soup pot of water to a rolling boil. Using tongs, carefully remove one crab at a time from the butcher's bag and slip it into the boiling water. Turn the heat off, cover with a lid and let it sit for 10 minutes. Once all the crabs have died, transfer these to a bowl of ice. 
  • Cleaning the crab: Using a lobster pick, pry open the hinged underbelly of the crab. Also pry the hard outer shell. If you do not care for crab mustard, flush the crab under running water to get rid of impurities. Using a lobster cracker, cut all the limbs/claws.
  • Here's a good tutorial for cleaning crabs. Note that the author discards the crab mustard. You might choose to keep it.

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