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Jaffna Crab Curry

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Jaffna Crab Curry

Jaffna crab curry

I served my Jaffna Crab Curry on banana leaves with rice, homemade lime pickle and a few other goodies.

My wife and I enjoy getting up early on the weekends and driving to Staithes, an old harbour village near our home. The place is beautiful and we usually take a good four to six mile walk along the coast taking in the views.

At the end of our walk is an excellent lobster and crab supplier. The lobsters and crabs are brought in right off Staithes and then placed in pools to continue swimming until purchased. You don’t get much fresher than that!

Yesterday we had our hearts set on having an afternoon crab feast for friends so we skipped the walking bit. 🙂

We purchase ten crabs and then drove home to begin working on the festivities. I par-cooked the crabs in boiling hot water for just five minutes and then removed them from the water to cool.

Normally, we serve crab with melted butter and garlic and some crusty bread. Simple but delicious.

This time, however we had something else in mind. I’d seen a Sri Lankan Jaffna crab curry recipe on Cinnamon Hotel’s blog and decided to give it a go. My version was slightly different as I had a few roasted spices and some home grown tomatoes I wanted to use up but it was pretty close.

Our verdict? Well let’s just say we’ll be making this Jaffna Crab Curry again many times. The messy meal was not only quite tasty but fun to serve. I cracked the crab shells before adding them to the curry sauce to make it easier for our guests to get at the meat. I recommend doing the same.


If you enjoy this recipe for crab try these similar ones:

Goan Stuffed Masala Crab
Crab Samosas
Coconut Masala Crab Curry


Making Jaffna crab curry

Quarter your par-cooked crabs and crack the shells.

Making crab curry

Be sure to remove the stringy, plasticky looking bits.

Making Jaffna crab curry

Toasting the desiccated coconut until light brown. Be careful not to burn it.

Making crab curry

The fried spices and curry leaves add so much delicious flavour.

Crab curry

In go the onions, chillies and ginger.

Making crab curry

Lots of spice is very nice!

Making crab curry

Stirring it all up.

Making crab curry

Stirring in the roasted coconut and tomatoes and garlic.

Making crab curry

Thick coconut milk added.

Making crab curry

The par-cooked crab can simmer in the sauce for a good 20 minutes.

Jaffna crab curry

Time to serve!

Yield: 4

Sri Lankan Jaffna Crab Curry

Sri Lankan Jaffna Crab Curry
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes


  • 4 par-cooked crabs - cleaned, quartered and shells cracked
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 20 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
  • 4 - 8 chopped green chillies
  • 3 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • A pinch of turmeric
  • 3 tablespoons toasted desiccated coconut
  • 3 diced tomatoes (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 800ml thick coconut milk
  • 200ml water
  • Juice of two limes
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander - stocks and all
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a large wok or pan over medium high heat.
  2. Toss in the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and curry leaves.
  3. When the mustard seeds begin to pop and the oil becomes fragrant, add the chopped onions, chillies and ginger.
  4. Allow to sizzle for a few minutes until the onion becomes translucent and soft. Then add the garam masala, coriander powder and turmeric.
  5. Stir this all up and add the tomatoes, chopped garlic and toasted coconut.
  6. Make sure the onions are nicely coated with the spices and then add the coconut milk, water and crabs.
  7. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the sauce is reduced by half. Be sure to stir regularly.
  8. Just before serving, squeeze the lime juice into the sauce and sprinkle in the chopped coriander.
  9. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

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Lee Cooper

Thursday 7th of July 2016

Interesting curry, just a note that you've missed the 2 large onions from the ingredients list.

I think it probably only needs half the amount of curry leaves and does require a fair bit of salt and pepper seasoning.

Covering it to simmer would have taken over an hour to reduce, so it was left to bubble uncovered.

Lovely on a bed of basmati.

Stephen Holmes

Saturday 12th of November 2016

Hi Dan

I've heard that fresh curry leaves are banned in the UK. Is it possible to get still them here? If so , where do you recommend?


Dan Toombs

Friday 8th of July 2016

Hi Lee

Thanks for noticing about the onions. I do like getting advice so keep it coming.


Lee Cooper

Wednesday 6th of July 2016

Trying this as I write.

We only get small to medium crabs here in Egypt, and blue swimmers are generally the best we can get.

They've been boiled for 10 minutes in an onion, carrot and parsley stock with a couple of cloves and plenty of salt and pepper. Oh, and an Octopus head (which is currently still simmering in the stock and will be for another hour).

Your curries are pretty awesome and as my background includes Ceylon and Burma (why do they keep changing the names of my ancestral homes?) then this recipe jumped out at me while I was looking for inspiration for dinner tonight. I was most likely going to do a catfish Jalfrezi but as we still had some crab in the freezer I just had to give this a go.

The only thing we don't have is the dessicated coconut, but as my wife hates it then it's no great loss.

Thanks for these recipes - we're enjoying eating our way through them (fish only, wife is pescatorian).

I'll report back on the result of today's dinner, but I'm guessing it will be gorgeous as usual. I've rated it based on how the ingredients feel.

Dan Toombs

Friday 8th of July 2016

Hi Lee

I love getting feedback like this. Thanks for stopping by.


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