As a teenager I’d take weekend trips to Kemari jetty for a night-crabbing cruise with friends. Once out of the harbour, we would throw lines in and “fish” our crabs for dinner. The boatmen then served up a feast of fresh “tawa” (pan) cooked crabs with red chilli masala mopped up with naans. The rustic presentation and simplicity of the spices is deeply etched in my mind, and though the boatmen would never share their recipe, I have created this from memory.
First make the ground spice blend by grinding the bay leaves and red chillies with the cumin and coriander seeds in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle until finely ground.
Heat the oil in a sauté pan with a lid over a medium heat. When hot, add the garlic and stir-fry for 2–4 minutes until light brown. Add the ground spice blend with the lemon juice and stir-fry for 2 minutes until the oil begins to rise to the top. Don’t let the garlic and spices burn – you may need to add a few splashes of water to prevent this from happening.
Add salt to taste and the Kashmiri chilli powder and cook for a further 2–3 minutes. Add the steamed crab and stir through. Cover with the lid, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and heat through for 3–4 minutes, not any longer.
Garnish with lemon wedges and chopped coriander leaves, and eat with naan.
For more recipes by Sumayya Usmani, see Summers Under The Tamarind Tree, Recipes & Memories From Pakistan, Frances Lincoln, out now.
By Sumayya Usmani
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This flexible dish is often on the summer menu at the Tolcarne Inn, a stone’s throw from Newlyn harbour. “I change the main element according to what’s best at the fish market,” says Ben Tunnicliffe.read more