When Narayani Nayak wrote the book [Cookery Craft in mid-20th century], the average housewife in India spent almost the whole day in the kitchen, cooking from morning to night, for her husband and family…The day began with a cooked breakfast, carried on to a hot lunch and ended with a large dinner, interspersed with helpings of snacks and sweets as well.

Ways of cooking and eating have changed today. Most people can find time to cook just one or two main dishes and these must provide all the nutrients necessary for healthy living. Besides changing from the old measures of tola and seers to grams and cups, I have rewritten most of the recipes [from Cookery Craft] to increase or decrease the amount where necessary, suggested substitutes if the main ingredient is not easily available, shortened the preparation time by using modern appliances, and given alternatives to those who do not have the time or energy to start from scratch.


  • 6 medium-sized black river crabs
  • 2 large onions, finely-chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

For Masala

  • 10 Byedgi chillies
  • 1 coconut, grated
  • 3 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp 1-inch ball of tamarind or tamarind paste
  • ⅓ tsp mustard seeds
  • Salt to taste


  1. Wash and clean the crabs. Lightly crush the legs.
  2. Heat the oil and fry the spices (except turmeric) separately, one by one, in a heavy-bottomed pan taking care not to burn them.
  3. Grind the fried spices with the turmeric powder, coconut and tamarind to a smooth paste.
  4. Heat the remaining oil and fry the onions till golden brown.
  5. Add the ground masala and salt. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add a little water from time to time if the masala sticks to the pan. Add a cup of water to the cooked masala and bring to a boil.
  6. Add the crabs and cook for around 10 minutes, till coated with the masala. Serve hot with rice. (This curry tastes even better after standing for a few hours.)

Tip: River crabs can be substituted with sea crabs which are often sweeter. Have the fishmonger clean and crack the crabs and cook within an hour or two of buying.

Excerpted with permission from The Classic Konkan Cookbook, Jyotsna Shahane, HarperCollins.

Jyotsna Shahane

Jyotsna Shahane

Jyotsna Shahane is a filmmaker with an interest in Indian food. In 2004 she started her blog The Cook's Cottage, one of a handful of bloggers on the subject at the time. She was chosen as one of the world's great food bloggers by Saveur, the gourmet food magazine. Jyotsna lives with her husband in Pune.

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