COOKING FROM - Gunpowder: Explosive Flavors From Modern India

BLUE SOFT SHELL CRAB (and shrimp) MALABAR CURRY pp. 112-113

Ok, this one was a scorcher.

A labor of love made over the course of this afternoon, my rainy day project. I ground toasted Kashmiri chiles for this. I needed 3 T. of ground chiles. I think my bag must have been particularly hot, because between the ground chiles and the split serranos I added for the green chiles it called for, we ended up with a very, very hot end result. Hot enough that BF, who is generally ok with hot food looked at me at the end of dinner and said, “That was hot!” I have a lovely endorphin buzz, currently.

You start with a sauteed base of tomatoes, ginger, garlic, onions, green chiles, ground chiles, Madras curry powder, turmeric, and ground coriander. Then you add water to cover (I also added a little salt at this point). If you were using your blue crab, you would add it at this stage too. Let it simmer for about 25 minutes covered, stirring occasionally. Then, add ground toasted coconut that you’ve turned into a paste with some water (it wants 2 cups of fresh coconut. I used 3 oz. desiccated that I toasted and then rehydrated and ground). Also, add curry leaves, ground fennel seed, black pepper, and garam masala. This is the stage I added my shrimp (not in the recipe) that I’d dusted with salt, turmeric, and chile powder. While those simmer together, I pan fried a couple soft shell crabs that I’d dusted with Wondra, chile powder, turmeric, and salt. Everything finished at about the same time. While I rested the crab on a couple paper towels, I stirred cilantro and a little more salt into the finished curry. We had this with basmati rice.

We liked this. I think it will benefit from a night in the fridge to let things blend and mellow a little. The soft shell crab was delightful, if a little overwhelmed by the sauce. The shrimp held up well to it. Have lots of rice or parathas on hand for the sauce!


You are on a delicious roll!

(If it’s still too spicy tomorrow, you can add some coconut cream or milk.)


Thanks! Yes - I am thinking about adding some coconut milk tomorrow! :hot_face:

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It’s quite strange that this book has disappeared from the Kindle store, and gotten so expensive in print version – must be some issue with US distribution.

There’s a pretty big preview with many recipes available on Google books (and maybe it’s in the library system in some places too)



At lunch, I texted BF - take some fish out of the freezer for dinner, your choice. I’ll figure out what to do with it when I get home. He grabbed a packaged of black cod, because it was at the top of the freezer and we had two of them. I clearly was not going to be able to make miso marinated cod, at least not tonight! And I weirdly wasn’t in the mood for tacos (who even am I? :joy:). I had read over the fish pollichathu recipe a while ago. It called for whole mackerel, but I had the other ingredients and figured it would all right to adapt. This is a fried, marinated fish recipe which I believe hails from Kerala.

This is another double marinated recipe. Combine lemon juice, ground coriander, turmeric, salt, black pepper, and chile powder. I, not reading the recipe very closely, sprinkled the dry ingredients on the fish fillets, did a double take, and then sprinkled a little citric acid powder over. Then it went into the fridge for about a half hour while I prepped the next marinade. Fry mustard seeds in oil (again it called for yellow and I used black), then cook some onions until golden (I used shallot), followed by fresh ginger, garlic, and green chile. When those have cooked a bit, add tomato and the remaining coriander, turmeric, chile powder, lemon, black pepper, and salt from the marinade you should have made properly, and cook down until it thickens (add water if it gets too thick). Then blend it up and when it has cooled, slather the fish with it. That goes back in the fridge for another 30 minutes.

When it is ready, you have a choice of deep frying your fish or roasting at 350F. I chose neither and shallow fried in my wok. Remove much of the excess marinade; you don’t want it burning in the oil. I forgot to fry my curry leaves first, so I added them near the end and then just fished (ha!) everything out and let it drain on paper towels.

This came together pretty easily on a weeknight, even not entirely paying attention to what I was doing :slight_smile: It also tastes great! I think this would definitely be good with mackerel. Trout would probably also work, especially if you can get some cleaned, boned out brook trout.



This is a version of the Bengali mustard fish I have become mildly obsessed with for how easy and flavorful it is.

A spice paste of grain mustard, fresh or desiccated coconut, ginger, garlic, green chilli, lemon juice, mustard oil, red chilli powder, turmeric, and the mysterious addition of a stock cube is slathered over cod fillets which are left to marinate for a while.

The fish is then wrapped in banana leaves, parchment, or foil, steamed for 25 mins, and finally charred on a pan before serving.

I used salmon, a mix of dijon and freshly-ground (soaked) black mustard seeds, skipped the stock cube (why even?), wrapped in parchment, then steamed in a shallow pan for 7 mins and charred in the same pan for a minute on each side. (I think my fish was 2 mins overcooked, so I don’t know how thick those cod fillets that need 25 mins + char time are.)

The coconut yields a milder flavor profile than I am used to, but this is a lovely preparation, one of my favorites (second only to Parsi Patra-ni-macchi, which is very similar but swaps fresh cilantro and mint for mustard.)

I ate it with rice, turkish-style green beans stewed in tomato sauce, and mixed dal loaded with vegetables.

A vegetarian version of the recipe (using paneer) is in the Google books preview under Chhena Paturi.


Looks fantastic! What happened to the marinade you scraped off?

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Some of it found its way into the pan anyway, but most of it I discarded. I am seeing other versions of this dish online where the fish is wrapped with the tomato marinade in a banana leaf and then roasted. I might try it that way next time!


This one has been on my list to make! I bought a jar of whole grain Dijon almost right after I got the book and then put it in the pantry and forgot it. I am going to have to get to this one soon. Thanks for making it and reporting!


Looks great.
This Dish was usually wrapped in Banana Leaf and grilled when I encountered it in Kerala.
There was also a “dry” preparation that resembles what you made called Meen Varuthathu.
Either way bet is was good.

Yes! I was wondering if they were the same/similar. Thanks! The cookbook noted that this recipe was inspired by a dish on the menu at Jai Hind (Mumbai small chain of seafood restaurants, if the internet is pointing me to the right place). I can’t seem to get any of the menus to open for me though.

Here you go.


Thank you! I kept clicking the menus and getting redirected to the top of the page! Now that I have read over the menu, I am intrigued by the hot and sour pulimunchi dishes. I like ambotiks.

It seems like he must have been referencing one of the fried fish dishes for the pollichattu?

Yeah, I couldn’t figure that out. Fried at these places in Bombay is usually rava-fried. But it may be a special that’s not on the menu — I’ve had banana-wrapped fish at the seafood place I go to more often.

(Btw there are a couple of different types of Ambotik too)

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Oooo! I must look into this!

There’s the Konkani one I was originally familiar with, the Goan one I learned from the Maunika Gowardhan COTM, and I think there’s one from Karnatala too. (Of course each of those has their own variations.)

I think the primary differences are souring agent (tamarind, tomato, kokum) and type of chilli (red vs green). Ambot-tik or Amot-tik or Ambat-tik means sour-spicy (amot/ambat/ambot = sour, tik = tikhat = spicy).

Got it. I’ve made the fish one from Maunika Gowardhan (I think she also has a shrimp one). I will look up the Konkani and Karnatalan ones. I actually have all of those items in the house right now. Thanks!

For anyone who may be interested in cooking some recipes from this cookbook, but are unable to find it in their library or by purchase, here are a few recipes published online to get you started:



I’ve been thinking about this since I read this review, and for once actually got it together to make it. And it was delicious and a hit with the family. Couldn’t find any tomato chutney (and no time to make any), so I gave everyone a dollop of mango chutney. Probably better with the tomato one, but still wonderful. Served with a cucumber and avocado salad. Thanks to @Saregama for the recipe!


Yay! I’m so glad you liked it! It looks delicious!

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