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Sri Lankan Crab Curry Recipe

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Sri Lankan Crab Curry Recipe

VinoliBy Vinoli   Posted 28th Apr 2020

A fan of crab and the complex earthy flavors of curry? Look no further as Vinoli, our operations manager in Sri Lanka, has put together this amazing recipe for Sri Lankan Crab Curry and included tips to make it as she most prefers — a bit spicy! This is optional of course.
Beyond amazing wildlife and beautiful scenery, Sri Lanka is also renowned for its delicious food, so enjoy bringing a bit of it to your home. 

Vinoli - Sri Lanka tour manager

Sri Lankan Crab curry, also known as Jaffna Crab Curry or Kakuluwo Curry, is a traditional spicy dish in Sri Lanka. The dish originated in the northern regions of Sri Lanka but now it’s popular around the country, mostly in the seaside areas where fish and other seafood are staple foods. While the crab can be substituted beef, pork, chicken, or another protein, the crab meat adds a special flavor to it… oh, when thinking about it my mouth is watering.

My all-time favorite meal would be Sri Lankan Crab Curry, Pol Sambol (Coconut Sambol) with Roast bread. I would have this dish any given time, anywhere; I guess maybe because I like spicy authentic food mostly.

Crab Curry (Kakuluwo Curry / Jaffna Crab Curry)

Ingredients: (2-3 SERVINGS) 


5-6 Fresh blue swimmer crabs or Mud crabs, cleaned and cut in half

(Note: may substitute crab for chicken or another protein)

Coconut-Rice Mix

½ tbsp raw white rice

4 tbsp ¼ cup desiccated coconut (unsweetened) OR freshly grated coconut

Other Ingredients

  • ½ yellow onion (finely chopped)
  • 1-inch ginger (minced)
  • 6 garlic cloves (left whole)
  • 1 ½ tbsp of unroasted curry powder (recipe below)
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper (For extra spicy 1 heaped tsp would do)
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2-3 fresh red or green chili peppers 
  • 6-8 curry leaves
  • 1-2 pandan leaves (fresh or dried)
  • 1 can of coconut milk 
  • Salt to taste
  • Drumstick leaves (optional) – Alternatively you can use parsley
  • Water as needed

Unroasted Curry Powder Recipe:

  • 4 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • 3 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds

Finely grind all the spices for the unroasted curry powder in a spice grinder. Set aside. 

If you are using roasted curry powder, add another 1 tsp of fennel seeds, ground to a powder (or ½ tsp ground fennel).

Crab Curry Instructions:

  1. Grind the raw rice and coconut until fine (or if using fresh coconut, grind until you have a fine paste). Set asideAdd about 2 tbsp of coconut oil (or vegetable oil) into a large clay pot or a saucepan (there has to be enough space to gently stir the crabs) and heat over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and saute for a few minutes until the onions have softened
    When onions are soft (golden color), add the 1 ½ tbsp of the curry powder, cayenne pepper and coconut/rice mix. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes until the spices become fragrant
  3. Add the tamarind paste, sugar, chili peppers, curry leaves and pandan and ¾ of the coconut milk from the can.
  4. Add a generous ¼ tsp salt (more can be added after you taste it later). Bring it to a boil.
  5. Place the crabs in this gravy and gently mix to coat the crabs with the thickened gravy 
  6. Bring it to a boil on medium-high heat and then lower the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes, until the crabs turn pink and are cooked through. Make sure to turn over/stir the crabs halfway through cooking to make sure they are well coated with the gravy while being cooked
  7. If you prefer it more creamy, you can add extra coconut milk, or up to ½ cup of water to dilute the gravy
  8. Add the drumstick leaves or parsley and stir through while hot
  9. Serve warm with steamed rice or roast bread /Kade bread

At home, I usually make the Sri Lankan Crab Curry a bit spicier depending on the mood or with what carb I eat it with. As a personal touch, I add a few drops of lemon or lime after taking the dish from the heat so it has a sour touch to it in addition to the spices.

Now, give it a try and tell us how it goes ;)


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