Chimboricha Kaalvan


One of the key flavour enhancers in this crab curry is an ‘essence of crab’ if you will, and this is derived by grinding the crab feet with water and straining it. As gruesome as it sounds, this really enhances the flavour of the curry and ensures you don’t waste anything. From being someone who was too petrified to deal with crabs (twitching limbs used to freak me out!) to mercilessly grinding the crab feet in a blender, I’ve certainly come a long way and I have my fisherwoman, Vatsala, to thank! This is a coastal Marathi recipe with a coconut and onion base and a complex set of spices, and kokum for sourness. You can always use whatever regional masala you have handy.

Mud crabs, portioned (the fishmonger will do this for you, separating the body from the claws. Ask them to save the legs and give them to you separately) 4 pcs
Dried coconut (grated) ½ cup
Fresh coconut (scraped) ¾ cup
Medium-sized onions (roughly sliced) 2 pcs
Fresh coriander (finely chopped) 4 tablespoons
Dried Byadgi chillies 10 pcs
Coriander seeds 3 tablespoons
Cumin seeds 2 teaspoons
Cinnamon stick 1 inch
Green cardamom 4 pcs
Fennel seeds ½ teaspoon
Black peppercorns 1 teaspoon
Star anise 1 pc
Koli masala (See below) 2 tablespoons
Salt To taste
Oil 2 teaspoons + 3 tablespoons
Kokum petals 6-8 pcs

Grind the crab feet in a blender with some water. Strain and reserve the liquid.


Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a wide pan. Add the dried red chillies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cardamoms, peppercorns, star anise, garlic, ginger and onions. Sauté over a medium flame until the onions begin to turn pink. Add the dried coconut and roast everything together until the coconut turns golden brown. Grind in a blender jar along with the fresh coconut and coriander leaves using a little water.


Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pot. To this, add the chopped coriander stem and the ground masala paste and cook over a medium flame for 10–12 minutes or until the fat separates from the sides and the masala looks glossy.


Add the salt, Koli masala and mix well. Tip in the crabs and the liquid made by processing the feet. Top with another 1½ cup of water. Bring to a brisk boil. Turn the flame down and simmer for 8–10 minutes or until the curry thickens to your liking.


Serve warm with bhakri or plain rice.


Koli masala


Dried Byadgi chillies – 100 grams

Dried Kashmiri chillies – 75 grams

Asafoetida powder – ½ teaspoon

Bay leaves – 3 pcs

Black cardamom – 2 pcs

Caraway seeds (shahjeera) – ½ teaspoon

Cumin seeds – 1 tablespoon

Black peppercorns – 1 tablespoon

Cobra saffron (nagkesar) – 6 pcs

Cinnamon stick – 1 inch

Cloves – 6-7

Coriander seeds – ¼ cup

Black stone flower (dagad phool) – ½ teaspoon

Mogwort (maipatri) – ¼ teaspoon

Fennel seeds – ½ teaspoon

Green cardamom – 6-8 pcs

Black mustard seeds – ½ teaspoon

Grated nutmeg – ¼ teaspoon

Poppy seeds – ½ tablespoon

White sesame seeds – ½ tablespoon

Star anise – 1

Tirphal (Japanese pepper) – 3-4 pcs

Turmeric powder – 1 teaspoon



  1. Dry roast all the spices, except the nutmeg, individually in a pan over low-medium heat and transfer to a blender jar. Add the nutmeg and grind to a fine powder.
  2. Store in an airtight jar for up to 6 months.

This recipe is from Pangat: Food and Lore from Marathi Kitchens (Hachette India). Bringing together over 200 traditional recipes, culinary researcher Saee Koranne-Khandekar debunks the myths surrounding the foods of Maharashtra.

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