Fijian Lairo crab, also known as the Fijian Land Crab is very popular in Fiji. Seafood is a staple in many Fijian villages and owing to its distinct salty flavour, Lairo is very popular throughout Fiji. They’re caught and sold fresh in the town and city markets on the islands. Although the mud crabs are more popular in Fiji (you can get the mud crab curry recipe here), lairo crabs are sought after and sometimes hard to find.
Fiji-Indians have been adapting to the food since their arrival into the country and as with all other seafood, have made a delicious South-Indian inspired Lairo crab curry. The process and ingredients are similar to mud crab curry but the cleaning process is a bit more thorough. Because it is such a hard shelled crab, it holds a very dominant flavour that can sometimes be over powering. Hence, the extra steps for cleaning (as explained in the directions below) are necessary.
6 Lairo Crabs
1 Tsp Cumin Seeds (Jeera)
1 Tsp Mustard Seeds (Sarso)
1/2 Tsp Fenugreek Seeds (Methi)
1 Tsp Turmeric (Haldi Powder)
3 Tbsp Masala (add more if you want a soupy curry)
6 Tbsp Oil
Ginger – 1inch piece
1 Bulb Garlic
Chillies – To Taste
1 Brown Onion
1 Brown Coconut (Grated and Milked)
1 Sprig Curry Leaves
1/2 Tin of Tomato Puree
Coriander – A Handful
1/2 Cup Tamarind Pulp
Salt – To Taste
1 Cup Flour – For Cleaning
- Cleaning the crabs: Add hot water to the bucket containing the crabs. After a few minutes, use a small brush to clean off the mud from the crabs. Next, prepare a hot water bath with a tablespoon of salt. Then mix through a small cup of flour into the bath and set aside for another 15 minutes. Then wash and rinse thoroughly
- Once the crabs are clean, dice the onions and make a paste of the garlic, ginger and chillies. Set these aside
- Then heat oil in a large pot and add the cumin (jeera), mustard (sarso) and fenugreek (methi) seeds along with curry leaves and cook till they begin to crackle and pop
- Now place the onions into the pot and cook till they turn translucent (see through) and have browned a bit. This takes about 10 minutes
- Once the onions are golden add in the ginger, garlic and chilli paste. Cook till the garlic is brown
- In go the crabs. Fry them for a few minutes
- Next, add the masala and turmeric (haldi) and fry till they begin to catch on to the base of the pot
- Add in the tamarind pulp and cook till it dries
- Then add the tomato puree and fry till a gravy is formed
- Once the crabs are coated in gravy, add salt and then add water according to the consistency required. Taste the gravy to balance the salt and add some more masala if its taste is not coming through
- Let the crabs simmer on low heat for a few minutes. Then add coconut milk and a handful of grated coconut. Simmer for a few minutes and taste the flavours again to adjust them to your liking. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve hot with roti.
I’m a vegetarian but I’m fascinated – what does washing the crabs in atta-water do?
Hi Sanjay, the atta (flour) water helps remove the strong smell from these crabs and lets the real flavour out of the crabs when cooking.
What kind of crab can I use to substitute lairo crab. I live in California.
Hi Robina, try our mud crab recipe –> https://thatfijitaste.com/crab-curry-coconut-milk/