For the Curry Powder
6 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons coriander seed
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 tablespoon fennel seed
6 whole cloves
1 teaspoon fenugreek seed
1 teaspoon Indian chili powder
6 dried curry leaves
For the Crab Curry
3 tablespoons Curry Powder
Two 2-pound crabs, top shell, gills, and guts removed (see note)
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
3 tablespoons Indian chili powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
½ cup coconut oil
1 cup sliced shallots
¼ cup sliced garlic
2 sprigs curry leaves (about 15 fresh leaves)
1 long green chili, sliced
2 cups coconut milk
½ cup tamarind paste, soaked then strained
4 fresh pandan leaves
1 cup coconut cream
2 tablespoons lime juice, plus more as needed
To prepare the curry powder, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the cardamom pods and toast, stirring occasionally, until the pods have darkened slightly and are fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl. Add the cinnamon stick and toast until it is also slightly darkened and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl, and then repeat with the coriander, cumin, fennel, cloves, and fenugreek until all are toasted. Add the chili powder and curry leaves to the mixture and grind in a mortar and pestle or electric spice grinder. Set aside.
Cut each crab into quarters. Crack the claws, but leave them attached. In a shallow dish, combine the crab, curry powder, turmeric, chili powder, and salt, and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Heat the coconut oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, garlic, and curry leaves and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Add the green chili and crab and cook until aromatic, about 3 minutes.
Add the coconut milk, tamarind paste, and pandan leaves and stir to combine. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the crab is fully cooked, about 12 minutes. If the mixture seems too dry, add additional coconut milk or water ¼ cup at a time.
Remove from the heat and add coconut cream and lime juice, and season with salt, to taste, before serving.
Chef's Note: If you prefer, you can substitute 8 ounces of lump crabmeat for the whole crabs. In that case, skip the marinating step and add the curry powder, turmeric, chili powder, and salt with the green chili and lump crabmeat in Step 3, then continue as written.
Nutrition information per serving: 455 calories; 241 calories from fat; 27 g fat (23 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 43 mg cholesterol; 405 mg sodium; 39 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 22 g sugar; 16 g protein.
The Culinary Institute of America