Spicy Stir-fried Mud Crab

Recipes | Curries | Stir-Frying Serves 2 Spicy Stir-fried Mud Crab

Sri Lankan cuisine makes good use of seafood from the waters surrounding this island nation; it also uses some unusual spices, herbs and condiments found only in specialist stores. This recipe is loosely based on Sri Lanka’s very popular crab curry, but uses more commonly available ingredients.


1 green cardamom pod
½ tablespoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon salt flakes
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon chilli powder
1 live Mud Crab, chilled (see notes) 
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
15 curry leaves (see notes)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
5cm piece ginger, finely grated
1 cup coconut milk 
2 Roma tomatoes, cut into eighths
1 tablespoon lime juice
Steamed basmati rice, for serving
Lime halves, for serving


Place cardamom pods, coriander, mustard, fenugreek and cumin seeds in a dry frying pan over a low heat and cook for a minute or 2, until fragrant. Remove from pan, open cardamom pods and add cardamom seeds to the other seeds, discarding pods. Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind seeds and salt together, stir through turmeric and chilli powder and set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add Crab to the water, cover and return to the boil as quickly as possible. As soon as it boils, remove crab and refresh in iced water. Clean Crab, remove large legs, crack claws and cut body into quarters.

Heat a wok over a high heat, add oil, then onion and curry leaves and stir-fry for a minute or 2 until onion starts to colour. Add garlic, ginger and ground spice mixture and stir-fry for 30-60 seconds, until fragrant. Add Crab and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add coconut milk and tomato, reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for a further 3-5 minutes, until Crab meat is opaque. Stir through lime juice and serve with rice and lime halves on the side.


The easiest and most humane way to kill any crustacean is to chill them in the freezer for 30-60 minutes until they become insensible (but not long enough to freeze them). Once chilled, they should be killed promptly by splitting in half or dropping into rapidly boiling water. See NSW Department of Primary Industries or RSPCA for more details.

Fresh curry leaves are available from most fruit and vegetable shops, they have a spicy aroma similar to cumin and aniseed; they can be omitted if unavailable.

Alternative species:

Blue Swimmer Crab, Marron, Prawns, Redclaw, Yabby.

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