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Crackly, crunchy crabs...

It is crab-time, folks. At New Delhi's Maurya Sheraton, SUMITRA SENAPATY discovers that crabs may not always be sleepy crawlies. They can actually be a hot, spicy dish when prepared the way they have done at the ongoing Crab Food Festival... .


A MENU that changes with the arrival of the new season is one of the hallmarks of Pavilion at New Delhi's Maurya Sheraton Hotel. It has hosted a Swedish, Kashmiri and North Indian wedding food and now brings to the Capital a Crab Food Festival.

Something not seen often on Indian restaurant menus are seafood dishes that venture beyond fish, but Chef Sultan Mohiudeen has created an entire menu of crab specialities ranging from Crab Masala Fry Coorg style to Sichuan Chilli Crab to Grilled Crab Cakes and more. Who would have thought that a slimy little crustacean could cause all this hoopla?

If crab is your thing, check out the crab cooked with drumstick leaves, a popular dish of Sri Lanka. A bit like dynamite, it is best eaten with the bland idli to balance the taste in your mouth. The Chettinad Crab is a sharper dish with a fragrant sauce of toasted and ground fresh peppercorns and tomatoes. It is definitely not for the faint hearted and has a long glow rather than a scorch.


Chettinad food is meant to be spicy, if it is not spicy it is not Chettinad, says the Chef, who hasn't neglected this aspect.

So Pavilion diners seeking crab nirvana may find the food here hot and tangy, but be assured, it is some of the most delicious. The restaurant staff are constantly hovering around, replenishing fast dwindling supplies of water and beer! To add to the chilliness of the crabs is a trolley full of different types of chilly sauces - Mexican, Italian, South American and more.

The Karavelli style of simmering crab in spicy gravy, goes well with the soft appams and iddiappams, is yet another offering that has to be tried. Fresh coconut is used as an ingredient for the wet masala and coconut milk is used to lend its unique flavour to the curry dish. Those crazy about crab will die for the crunchy crab cakes. The crisp lightly packed beauties, perched atop a lush bed of lettuce, crowned with parsley and drizzled with lemon sauce are a great treat any which way you look at it. Served with two roasted pepper sauces, one a mild red pepper sauce and the other a yellow pepper sauce with a light taste of mustard, these crab cakes turn out to be as good as they look.

Then comes the Sichuan spicy sweet and sour crab. This is good. The spiciness comes from red chilli powder that causes your tongue to sizzle a little. The sweetness from the sugar and the sour taste from vinegar. The meat of the crab is sweet as well so this Chinese addition to the fare turns out to be quite interesting. Crab mania - Crab and Leek Lasagne, Angel Hair Pasta with Crab Meat, Risotto with Crab and Spinach, Stir Fried Crab with Black Bean and Chilly Sauce, Crab flavoured soup and White Pomfret stuffed with crab meat - is on at the Pavilion till month end, so go ahead and get your hands dirty with some spicy crabs.

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