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You cannot come to Mumbai and not have crabs.
If you go to the city’s more touristy seafood places like Trishna and Mahesh or even Gajalee, then be prepared to have a member of the waitstaff wave a huge crab under your nose till you give in and pledge your pay cheque to the cashier.
My favourite crab dish in Mumbai is the salt and pepper crab that you get at Ling’s Pavilion. The owner, Baba Ling, has been buying crabs from the same suppliers for years. He gets the first right of refusal on the crabs that his suppliers get to the market. The crab served is very fresh and the subtle spicing ensures that you can enjoy the sweet meat of the crab in its full glory with no masalas coming in the way.
The most famous crab dish in the Mangalorean-run trinity of legendary seafood places in Mumbai – Trishna, Apoorva and Mahesh – is the butter pepper garlic crab. The recipe is in the name! Crabs are flash cooked in a butter, pepper and garlic mix, and the dish is intensely favoured. Some say that the dish was invented at Trishna. I have eaten it at Mahesh a few times and really enjoyed it. Eat it with neer dosas.
Then, you have the tandoori crab at Gajalee, which is best enjoyed in the original outlet at Vile Parle East. It is on the spicy side, but does not have the red colour you associate with tandoori dishes in the city.
The thing with crab dishes is that they are rather expensive, as they give you a whole crab in most places.
This is not the case in the small Malvani joints though, where they serve food from coastal Maharashtra. Here, they serve you a part of a crab in a spicy, grated coconut and chilli-based curry. Sometimes, it is more about the curry than the crab in these restaurants. One place to check this out is Sindhudurg in Dadar.
They also use parts of crab in the kosha kakrar (crab) jhol, which is a Bengali preparation in Bhojohori Manna. They use mud crabs from the Bay of Bengal area. It is a slightly pungent preparation using onions, garlic, ginger and garam masala, and is to be eaten with rice using one’s fingers. The curry looks reddish, and the crabs are slightly cracked during preparation to allow the spices to get in.
So go ahead and enjoy your crabs, and do not bother about who is watching while you eat.
There is no polite way to eat crabs!
Follow Kalyan Karmakar @ Finelychopped
Kalyan Karmakar authors the popular award winning blog, Finely Chopped and is an authority on the food of Mumbai. His extensive knowledge of the city's food scene has been featured in publications such as Femina, Mumbai Mirror and BCC Good Food. He was one of the founding critics of EazyDiner's Mumbai team.