The hunt for crab is unending. For the true aficionado, everyday brings with it the prospect of a hot tip recommending another source or a different style of the firm but succulent sweet shell-encrusted meat that your tongue never stops seeking.
For a crustacean craver like myself, you'd think that Colombo life would be like wandering the garden of Eden. With its endless coastline, constantly active fishing fleet and reputation for producing the finest crabs in South/South East Asia, you'd imagine that most Sri Lankans spend their lives in crab-induced ecstasy. But sadly, nay, this is far from the case.
While Sri Lanka's lagoons yield some of the fleshiest crabs on earth, much, the best are exported. Loaded alive or flash frozen into airplanes and whisked off to the kitchens of our wealthier Asian counter parts- Singapore, Dubai and Malaysia. The ones left behind for local consumption are runts - those that fall below the flesh and weight criterion demanded by South East Asian kitchens. But more than simply the size of the crab (cos we all know it's not only size that matters) the crab preparations you encounter at many local hotel and restaurants can be distinctly mediocre; baked crab which is 90% potato and cheese, chilli crab smothered in a sauce that is no more than ketchup and Thai crab in a generic yellow curry sauce. Even the more promising specialised street level eateries don't consistently produce the subtle sauces and flavours that can lift a 10 legged bottom feeder into a feast worthy of the gods themselves.
Given this scarcity of quality crab, even in this land of supposed crabby abundance, a crab craver must, like any other junkie, spend his/her days waiting for leads on suppliers, quantities and prices. And following these leads to the darkest recesses of Colombo for a fix is a regular nuisance.
This is an expensive and time consuming addiction so it was with some delight that I heard tales of the Crab Company. The King of 90's Colombo restaurant Don Stanely's (the man behind it rather), is now delivering export quality crab to your door. Every Munchy junky's dream - good food delivered to your door.
Seconds after seeing the advertisement I rang them up and interrogated them. "Does it come in Jaffna style, Singporean, Chilli or Thai variants?" I screamed.
"Yes Sir," came the reply.
There are three sizes and only a days notice is required for delivery. Having had little luck with Singaporean Chilli Crab from 168 Seafood Palace
, I ordered three kilos of the Jaffna style crab.
The delivery went smooth - arrived at exactly the appointed time, although they turned up without the kiri kos accompaniment I ordered.
Still, once spooned out of its steel receptacle the crab looked very promising - a gleaming orange pile covered in a generous amount of murunga infused curry. A quick sampling of the all-important sauce established it did no disservice to Jaffna's proud name.
With parata and some hodhi this was a great crab feed. A throw back to the old days you hear your parents discussing when 20 crab sacks were regularly produced and devoured.
With its murunga marinated flesh and outstandingly meaty claws, this was a local preparation that could easily stand up to its more famous Singaporean and Thai competitors. Without a doubt one of the city's best crab options and the added bonus of home delivery.
So is this it? The city's crabby-grail? Well not quite. There's a small but crucial little problem - the price. My 3 kilos set me back Rs 8500. Now that fed 5 people comfortably, so we are looking at about Rs. 1800 a person which isn't extortionate by any means but its also not cheap. I'd struggle to use this for my weekly fix. There's also a 2-3 kilo minimum order which means you have to get some friends together or cough up 6000-8000 bucks. For those who take their crabby pleasure alone, this is an expensive score.
Still, it was pretty memorable feed and while the crabs can't compete with the beasts at MOC
in terms of size, they are still very meaty and the gravy is good. Great for a monthly gorge but for my weekly/daily fix.... I'm still looking for a cheaper alternative.
Complaints - They forgot my kiri-cos.
You need to have a large receptacle ready as they don't let you keep the steel bucket they bring the goods in. Heat lightly on the stove (not microwave before serving) and at this point you can add say lemon juice, chilli, sugar to taste.