Chettinad Crab Curry

Chettinad Crab Curry
A to Z Challenge (Letter N): Nandu (Tamil for “Crab”)


Also pictured: Ridge Gourd Fry (Peerkangi Poriyal)

Chettinad is a region of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu near the city Trichy. Its cuisine is characterized as spicy, aromatic, and (more importantly) non-veg. Personally, I feel chettinad-style food is one of the better non-veg cuisines in India as it always manages to keep a home-cooked taste, no matter how hotel-style you make it.

I’ve made crab curry a lot, almost exclusively in the chettinad style, and I’ve eaten a lot of chettinad style crab curry at homes and in Tamil restaurants. I’m of the opinion that you really need your crab whole and shell-on. Though, I have made this with those little tubs of claw meat you can buy in the store.

Also, I’m from the PNW…so… dungeness crab all the way. Sorry Maine, not in my neighborhood.

Chettinad Nandu Kulambu (Chettinad Crab Curry)

Special Ingredients: 2 [dungeness] crab (or 1lb/0.5kg crab meat), garam masala powder, curry leaves
Special Tools: Pot with a lid

Note: You’ll get bonus points if you save any [clean] crabby water (1 cup). Or quickly swish your [clean] crab in 1 cup of water to use for cooking.

On medium heat, add to your pot:

  • 2 tbsp oil (I use olive oil)
  • (Optional): 1/4 tsp Mustard Seeds
    When they pop, your oil is hot enough.

When oil is hot, add and mix:

  • 4-5 Curry Leaves (NOT curry powder… )
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
    or 1 tbsp garlic, minced + 1/2 tsp ginger powder
    or 1 tbsp garlic, minced + 1 inch cube fresh ginger, sliced

When the curry leaves are done sputtering, and the cumin seeds are browned add:

  • 1 Red Onion, sliced

Allow the onion to become soft and browned (10 mins). Then add:

  • 2 tomato, chopped

When tomato is nice and soft (5-7 mins), mix in:

  • 2 tsp fennel powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne powder (or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt (add more to taste, after cooking is complete)

When the spices are blended nicely (2-3 mins), mix in:

  • 1 cup [clean, crab] water

Allow the water to warm up, then add:

  • 2 Dungeoness Crab

Place your lid on your pot and reduce the heat to a simmer (e.g. the liquid should still be bubbling, but sorta half-heartedly). Cook for a solid 25-30 mins.

If you’re using shell-on crab, you’ll want to remove the lid and cook for an additional 10 minutes to reduce the gravy so it becomes a nice sauce.

Eat with white rice.

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