The traditional dish is Curry Crab with Dumplings when visiting Tobago, the sister island of Trinidad. However I’m a bit too lazy today to make dumplings, but I promise to post a recipe soon enough. It was about 3 years ago we were in Tobago for a few days when at Store Bay getting ready to board a boat to go snorkeling, my sister got me some curry crab and dumplings to try. I must admit that it was a bad experience. Maybe it was the heat and the heavy dish or the curry was overdone, but it was not the same as I remembered as a young fella on the islands. There wasn’t that rich creamy, spicy.. lick your fingers taste that I grew up on.
Here’s a simple version of this famous dish on the sister island. I opted not to cook the curry as it would normally be done (instead I seasoned the crab with the curry… a bit milder taste) and the crab I’m using is what I could find here at the local Asian market. At least it was fresh. Normally we use the big fat blue crabs that’s found in the mangrove swamps on the islands.
2 lbs crab cleaned and cut into pieces.
1 can coconut milk (165 ml / 5.6 fl oz)
1/2 med onion sliced
1/2 large tomato diced
1/4 habanero pepper – optional (use your fav hot pepper)
1 1/2 table spoon madras curry powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 scallion sliced
1 cup water
1 lime or lemon for washing the crab
1 tablespoon green seasoning
1/4 teaspoon geera (cumin)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Note: If you don’t have the green seasoning mixture, combine 1 tablespoon each of (chopped fine) – shado beni or cilantro, thyme, shallot, celery and Spanish type or oregano.
Let’s start by washing the pieces of crab (I cut each crab into 4 pieces) by using the juice of the lime and water (not the water mentioned in the recipe), then drain. I would highly recommend that you get the people at your fish market to remove the back and cut the crab for you as this can be a bit tricky when they’re trying to claw you. I love watching our daughters squirm as I take the crabs apart so I opted to do this step myself.
Now using all the ingredients mentioned above, except the oil, water and coconut milk, season the crab and allow to marinate for a couple hrs in the fridge.
Remove from the fridge about 15 minutes before cooking to bring back to room temperature. In a saucepan heat the oil on high, then try to get some of the onions, garlic, pepper and tomato from the bowl with the seasoned crab and cook it a bit in the hot oil. If you can get some of the curry liquid at the bottom of the bowl, add that as well. Allow this to cook for a few minutes, then add the whole lot of seasoned crab to the pot. Stir to coat all the pieces of crab with the curry sauce, bring to a boil, then cover the sauce pan and reduce the heat to a simmer.
Allow this to cook for about 5 minutes, then raise the heat back to high to burn off all the liquid. After which, add the cup of water and bring back to a simmer. This should cook for another 5 minutes or so.
Now add the coconut milk and again on a gentle simmer allow this to cook until the sauce is thick (covered sauce pan). Usually about 8 minutes. The coconut milk will make the curry very mild, so if you wish you can avoid the coconut milk and use more water for a stronger curry flavour. At the end you can top with some chopped cilantro for an extra punch of freshness.
Here’s a pic I took while visiting the San Fernando market of the blue crabs that’s traditionally used for curry crabs and dumplings. It’s claws are tied with the leaves of the coconut tree to prevent them from biting the customers.