I’ve always wondered why such a regal dish has such a strange name… Aaji used to tell us it had to do with the sound the shell made against the vessel while being cooked which seems like a plausible explanation.
There’s 2 kinds of crab we commonly get around Mumbai. There are the sea crabs referred to in PP lingo as होरी (hori)
and then there are the tastier and more expensive ones , the mud crabs or चिंबोरं (chimbori)
Note the shape of the upper shell carapace. This is a female chimbori and in all probability is filled with ‘Laakh’ or bright orange coloured roe… This bit I think makes it worthwhile to buy the female crab (मादी) over the male (नर) which is fleshier but (obviously) has no roe!!!
The khadkhadle experience begins with buying the chimbori in the first place…
The koli (or more likely the Kolin) will try and convince you that they were out all night risking their life trying to catch one… But the carnivore in you’s gotta persevere and stick to a rate. The fisherfolk’ll be nice enough to break the pincers (फांगडे) for you… Once that’s done, the rest of the cleaning process happens at home (slaughter included… If you’re weak willed, stop reading NOW).
So once you got the squiggly-wigglies home, don a pair of rubber gloves and carefully break away a leg at a time… At the end, you should be left with two piles looking like this – you want to rinse these off under running water using a toothbrush to get rid of any muck residue on the shell.
Unlike a restaurant or many other people I know, our prep just involves cutting these into half and getting rid of the sandbag (entrails) of the crab… And they’re ready to use…
The rest of the recipe is fairly simple…
For around 5-6 large sized crabs, you will need
3 heaped tbsp of garlic paste
1 pinch of Hing
1 tsp haldi powder
1 tbsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp PP sambhar powder
1/2 cup oil
Salt to taste and water as reqd
Heat oil preferably in a brass vessel add a pinch of hing.
Once it splutters, add the salt, dry spices and , cook till the raw smell goes away (a minute)
Add crabs and a bit of water and cook covered on a medium flame till the shells change colour to a bright orange.
Serve this salty spicy connoisseur’s bliss with plain rice and watch the partaking people demolish endless mounds of rice… You just won’t know when to stop!