Sri Lankan Crab Curry

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Dungeness crab season in the Bay Area. And during the holidays, we eat Dungeness crab. Crab cakes. Crab with butter. Singaporean chili crab. Roasted crab. And now, Jaffna-style crab curry. This stuff is so good it’ll have you licking your fingers and crying tears of joy from the endorphin rush. It burns, my friend. It burns so good. There’s a reason why this is Anthony Bourdain’s favorite Sri Lankan dish.

In my version, I substituted spinach for murungu leaves. I know, I know. A poor substitute, but I couldn’t find a single South Asian grocery in the East Bay that carries murungu leaves. And I’ve of course used Dungeness crab instead of blue swimmer crabs which are native to Sri Lanka. It ain’t pretty and it’s messy, but who cares? This is what crustacean dreams are made of.

Happy holidays, y’all.

Sri Lankan crab curry


2 large cooked Dungeness crabs, cleaned
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt to taste
1 tablespoon raw basmati rice
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 tablespoons shredded coconut
5 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, chopped
2 sprigs curry leaves
1 tomato, chopped
1 bunch spinach or murungu leaves
1 cup water
1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons tamarind paste, soaked in 1/3 cup warm water and pressed through a sieve, solids discarded

1. Split crabs down the middle and crack legs. Toss with turmeric powder, cayenne pepper, and salt. Set aside.

2. Toast rice, peppercorns, and cumin seeds in a small saucepan and set aside. Toast coconut in saucepan until slightly browned. Grind spices and coconut with garlic and set aside.

3. Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Saute onions, curry leaves, tomato, and spinach. Add crabs and 1/2 cup of the water. Cover and steam over high heat for 5 minutes.

4. Add the rice mixture, remaining water, and coconut milk to the saucepan. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes. Add strained tamarind liquid to pot and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve warm.

Wok-Seared Noodles with Crab

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You know how in university, going to bed at four in the morning was no big deal and dinner was routinely “fancy” ramen at midnight? And by fancy, I mean instant ramen with an egg and a handful of vegetables thrown in. And it was delicious. Oh yes, it was what junk food dreams are made of.

This dish of lime and chili-flecked noodles and crab is the grown up version of that midnight college ramen. The instant noodles are still there, only the additions are more haute. Make sure to seek out the crab paste. It’s what makes these noodles so cravingly special.

Spicy wok-fried noodles with crab


Three packages ramen, seasoning packets reserved for another use
1/4 cup vegetable oil plus two tablespoons
1/4 cup minced peeled fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Thai-style crab paste
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce, Thai chile paste, or sambal oelek
3/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 pound lump crabmeat
1/3 cup chopped mint
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest plus 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1. In a large saucepan of boiling water, cook the ramen for 3 minutes, until al dente. Drain well and set aside.

2. In a wok, heat 1/4 cup of the oil until smoking. Add the ginger, garlic, crab paste, chili garlic sauce, and mushrooms and cook over high heat, stirring, until the garlic is golden, about 3 minutes. Add the ramen and toss to coat. Spread the noodles in an even layer over the bottom and halfway up the side of the wok and drizzle with the remaining two tablespoons oil. Cook over high heat, undisturbed, until the edges start to crisp, about 
2 minutes. Toss the noodles, then spread them out again and cook until the edges start to crisp, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broth, crabmeat, mint, lime zest and lime juice, season with salt and toss again. Transfer to plates and serve.

Tuna Poke on Nori Crakers

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Listen, I love my poke bowls like any good millennial should, but sometimes I want to mix it up. Sometimes I want poke straight out of the mixing bowl sans rice. And sometimes, I like to get fancy and serve poke on crispy, briny seaweed.

Adapted from a recipe by Liholiho Yacht Club’s Ravi Kapur, this is one of my favorite appetizers to make. It’s a showstopper and delicious to boot. The crackers are a little bit time consuming but the method is easy. Just make sure you assemble the final dish at the last minute so the crackers don’t get soggy.

Tuna poke on nori crackers


Canola oil, for frying
3/4 cup cornstarch
Four 8-inch-square nori sheets, cut into quarters
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
12 ounces sushi-grade tuna cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 teaspoons minced green onion
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons seeded and minced jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1. Make the nori crackers: in a large frying pan, heat 1 inch of oil to medium-high. Set a rack over a baking sheet and line with paper towels.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the cornstarch with 1/2 cup of water until smooth. Dredge the nori in the cornstarch mixture, letting the excess drip off. Slowly drop the nori into the hot oil and fry for 2 minutes. Flip and fry for 
2 minutes longer, until crisp. Transfer to the rack, season with salt and let cool.

3. Make the spicy mayonnaise: In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce, and chili garlic sauce until smooth. Set aside.

4. Make the poke: In a large bowl, fold the tuna, green onion, ginger, jalapeno, remaining soy sauce, and sesame oil together; season with salt.

5. Place the poke onto the nori crackers and dollop with some of the spicy mayo. Serve immediately.

Salmon Teriyaki

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Internet, do you have any idea how easy it is to make salmon teriyaki at home? I’m going to let you in on a little secret: it’s incredibly easy. Like, laughingly easy. And the best part? It tastes better than that sugary, syrupy rendition so many restaurants serve.

The secret to achieving the perfect glaze here is reducing the sauce appropriately. Reduce it too much and you’ll scorch the fish. Reduce it too little and you’ll end up with a watery sauce. You have been warned.

Salmon teriyaki


1/2 cup sake
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 6-ounce skin-on, boneless salmon fillets

1. Combine sake, mirin, and soy sauce bowl. Set teriyaki sauce aside.

2. Heat oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat and season salmon lightly with salt.

3. Working in batches and adding more oil if needed, cook salmon skin side down until skin is brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook until other side is just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

4. Pour off excess fat in pan. Bring teriyaki sauce to a boil in pan over medium heat. Cook until reduced by two-thirds, about 5 minutes.

5. Add salmon, skin side up, and cook, spooning sauce over, until sauce is syrupy and salmon is just cooked through, about 3 minutes.

6. Transfer to a plate and serve with rice or salad.

Fried Smelt with Garlic Chips

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Why don’t Americans eat smelt more often? I have a theory: for starters, it’s called smelt. Not the prettiest word, amirite? Secondly, smelt slightly resemble anchovies and there’s that whole anchovies-on-pizza revulsion thing from our collective Saturday morning TMNT cartoon childhoods. But let’s be real: smelt is delicious. And if it were called, I dunno, Maritime butterfish or Japanese elvenfish, they’d fly off the shelves.

This is my favorite way to enjoy smelt: dusted with flour, fried to a crisp, and covered in heaps of garlic. A perfect finger food. These are addictive. You have been warned.

Fried smelt with garlic chips


2 or 3 large garlic cloves
3/4 pound smelt, cleaned
1/2 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons umeboshi (pickled ume plums), pitted and minced to a paste
2 cups flour
vegetable oil for deep frying

1. Thinly slice the garlic cloves. In a medium saucepan, heat 1/2 inch of oil. On low heat, fry the garlic slices until lightly golden, about 7-9 minutes. With a fine mesh sieve, transfer the garlic to a plate. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, mix the fish sauce, water, sugar, and umeboshi. Add the smelt and leave to marinade for 15 to 30 minutes.

3. In the same saucepan as the garlic oil, add enough oil to reach 2 inches and heat to medium-high. Remove the smelt from the marinade, dredge in flour, and add to the saucepan. Deep fry until golden and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, drain smelt on a paper-lined plate and sprinkle with salt.

4. Garnish the smelt with the garlic chips and serve warm.