Alibaug and neighbouring towns already are getting good catches with the rains close by. This is the time of the year – the monsoons – when the rains brings along the shore huge quantities of crabs. And while some of the popular eateries that serve whole crabs could get you off by Rs 7,500 for a two kg treat, you can be sure of some big catches and no dry days! Best, if you can tackle the claws and tripping legs, get to the docks, and pick up a crate to take home. Until then, we revisited for you some famous old eateries, and hunted some new options where you can head to for a bite.
Jai Hind Lunch Home, Lower Parel
On their menu are two crab dishes - Tandoori crab and Stuffed crab. While there could be days when you don't get the tandoori crab (like when we visited. We were told it requires bigger crabs, and they weren't available in the market that day), the stuffed crab is always an option. At Rs 350, it's a small crab you get, and it makes for a starter. It's definitely easier to eat, as the meat is removed, marinated in a konkani masala and restuffed.
Gajalee, all outlets
They bring live crabs to you to pick one, these are mostly the rock crabs. Often making the choice is tough, because your heart (and your tummy) wants the biggest one, but as you have to pay by weight, you debate between the smallest and second smallest. After that you tell the server the preparation you want – tandoori and butter garlic (on request) are the best choices. You must try their crab masala though, it's their oldest and best crab dish, on the menu since 1991. Also, if you like to go less messy, you can request for 'boneless' preparations except in case of tandoori crab.
While we didn't try Crab stick kebab, we liked it's description, crab meat fashioned like chicken lollipop on crab legs.
This is perhaps the only restaurant in the city that serves soft shell crabs. Those who've travelled to the US and Europe may be familiar with it – you can eat the entire crab, shell included! Aoi imports these crabs from South East Asia, Vietnam, Thailand. They come frozen, but that's the only way you can get them here! What they do with it is serve a tempura. The crab, along with its shell is cut into chunks, marinated with lime juice and garlic, and tempura treated. The texture is nothing like the Indian crabs we know. The best part, totally non-messy.
Their menu has many options, but to cut the confusion out, we think Crab Tikota, their oldest dish is also their best. Most of their crabs are the Mud Crab variety. You can request de-shelled versions of any of their preparations as well. But they'll always recommend you go for the whole crab, and give you a cracker, scooper and apron to do the deed.
Generally we buy live mud crabs, & we take extra care to clean it and cook it well. That's very important. The owner of the restaurant Devdas Alva is usually there, so you can always chat with him on all things you need to know. But one thing he ain't telling, it's what goes in the Crab Tikota masala. "It's a secret masala," is all you'll get out of the gentleman.
We got quite a few recommendations fot the Singapore Crab with Mantau here. One of the Chef Lawrance Lao's specials that was made only on request, it's popularity has landed it on the menu. Salt water crabs served with Mantau, a delicious steamed bread. You could ask for fried beans instead, but we wouldn't. The crab meat is grilled along with chilli sauce and egg yolk gives it that slight yellow colour. At Rs 1,650, it's a treat.
Some crab gyaan
Master Chef Bala Subramanian, South of Vindyas, The Orchid
In Mumbai, you'll hear words like mud crabs, soft-shell crabs, king crabs and rock crabs. Mud crabs and the giant rock crabs are most popular. Each of these crabs are different in size, texture, shells, and colour. They even taste different.
Each kind of crabs require different preparations. Mud crabs taste best in Maharashtrian preparations like chimbori rassa and khekda masala. Rock crab cater best to South Indian dishes like crab chettinad, nandu thokku, etc. Blue (soft-shell) and King crabs work well with dry, masala preparations.
The one for you
Most restaurants offer patrons to select their own crab as per weight. It's said the ones with eight legs and two claws as the highest breed of crabs. Preferably select a live crab. In case they are not live, check if the shell is hard or not (it should be hard).
The best way to enjoy crabs are to have it fresh with very little masala. The best masala combo for crab dishes are grated coconut with cumin seeds and green chillies. Traditional garam masala goes well with crabs. Or simply boil them with peppercorns and salt and enjoy with garlic butter.
Tip: Clean the crabs properly and cook it. Do not boil the crabs before cooking, as the crab loses its salty taste. Clean them properly and cook them directly.
When buying crabs from the fish market, Try and buy live crabs. Heavier the crab, meatier it is. Also, check the shell. Harder the better. It's a fresh catch, smell it when it does not smell saltier than the water.