It’s way too much work to eat a crab. Let’s not even get into the behind-the-scenes kitchen drudgery, I just literally mean eating one. I always feel like some jaggedy edge of the craggy carcass will stab my fingers before I can get to the creamy flesh inside, and by the time I’m done tugging and twisting and snapping and oh crap, I didn’t mean to slingshot that pointy piece at you – the white fleshy insides are lost on me.
But my sister has finally found me a crab dish that has upped the returns on all the blood, sweat and tears that go into scooping out those tiny chunks of meaty crab insides. It was one of those evenings dedicated to restaurant hopping in Karama, three restaurants in three hours because…just because. Calicut Paragon was the third one. And that’s where the crab became my game changer.
Dry fry crab, Calicut Paragon
Picture this [if you can, imagine the narration in King Julian’s dramatic voice because we all love his Borat voice and because the foodie world needs more drama]:
girl sits at table, not excited about ordering dry fry crab. dry fry crab comes to table. girl picks at it like it is not yummy. girl licks brown masala crusted up on shell. oh. wow. but why this is so yummy? girl picks up claw cracker, cracks open shell on limb. eats the flesh. salty, like the waves of the sea. salty, like…like salt. girl is in love. girl drops claw cracker and move back chair, in slow motion, very slow motion, run to kitchen, run, run, r-u-u-u-u- u-u- u-u-n. running past servers, through kitchen door. oops, not kitchen door, she is in toilet. runs back out, and through kitchen door, calls out to chef in slow motion animal growl. chef turns around, his eyeballs wide as he sees oncoming crazy girl. stunned chef drops crab straight into pot of bubbling water, splash happens in slow motion, droplet of water falls on girl’s cheek, trickles down to lip, then girl falls to ground, prostrating herself with joy and love at the feet of killer crab chef.
In reality, the girl just picked the claw cracker back up and toiled until she had filled herself with chunks of tender crabmeat alternated with mouthfuls of lip-smacking dry roasted Keralite masala and papery crisp, outrageously fragrant curry leaves. I can only guess that in addition to coconut, which a Malabari chef would use liberally across most of his dishes, the masala mix had coriander seeds, chilli powder, cumin, turmeric, black pepper, whole garam masala. But that’s really the recipe for masalas used in most Indian dishes. Most of them have some combination of these spices. It’s the proportion of each, when you throw them into into the cooking process, and how freshly ground they are, that totally transforms a dish. Whatever that chef had done with his crab masala, it was transforming the heck out of me. Nothing I ate nor drank during that three hour restaurant hop,…
…not the spinach pakodas with sweetish dabs of what I suspect was Hunt’s ketchup,
Spinach Pakodas, Calicut Paragon
…not even the irresistible mango curry, with the tart tang of raw mango slices and smooth meaty fillets of kingfish,
Mango kingfish curry, Calicut Paragon
…not the hot elastic layers of Keralite parotta, every bouncy morsel of which deserved to splashed in the aforementioned glorious mango curry,
Parotta, Calicut Paragon
…not the the biryani chai, which as per a recommendation on four square was supposed to exhibit gravity-defying features. But it landed up anticlimactically in a glass and not as some magical upside-down waterfall of chai that social media had made me dream it would be. The fact that it was a fancy layered drink – chai, milk, foam – didn’t reduce my violent desire to throw an apple at the reviewer who suggested that this drink could defy the laws of physics,
Biryani Chai, Calicut Paragon
…not Chef Lanka's Sri Lankan appam with a bullseye egg in the centre and two sambals on the side, a lethal chilli and another tame onion one,
Bullseye Appam, Chef Lanka
…not the kotthu roti, with shreds of bread, veggies and chicken all mushed up together into one savoury haystack. My loyalties for kotthu roti still rest with Aapa Kadai,
Kotthu Roti, Chef Lanka
…not the four vibrant carnival tents of Aryaas' special dosas, each sporting a different flavour: coriander, tomato, ghee, and a mixed one thrown in for good measure,
Special dosas, Aryaas
…not the rava masala dosa, a semolina net stuffed with curried potatoes. Its thick, floppy texture fell somewhat short of our crispy netted dosa expectations,
Rava Masala Dosa, Aryaas
…and not the South Indian coffee. Always a hit, but an expected hit, and according to the infamous expectations-outcome theory, not as jaw-droppingly incredible as the crab had personally been for me,
South Indian Coffee, Aryaas
…none of these were as eye-opening as that appetizer plate of dry fry crabs. Two crabs, starter portion, 35 dirhams. I'm no crab connoisseur, and if you are, please do visit Calicut and share your expert thoughts on whether the crab itself is a high quality one...but at that price, those spice-encrusted pincers are worth every dirham, and more.
On a related note, this is the second time that Calicut Paragon has made me go wild over their seafood. The first time was over their prawns made in a similar, dry fry masala as the crabs. That masala is just something else. Sprinkle it over Kilimanjaro, and I’ll be at the peak in no time.
Special thanks to fellow eaters, the social media queen @faridaa, her hubs, and the food-loving blogger, @bettyboodubai who wrote about Karama Krawl on her blog, Coffee Cakes and Running.
Location of all three restaurants: Across from the (old) Lulu Centre in Karama. Park in the parking right by the small community park and just ask someone if you can’t find the places!
Phone: +971 (4) 335-8700
They are actually located right across from the Karama post office, but you need to park on the other side (by the community mentioned above) and then walk between the buildings out onto the main road where Aryaas is located.
Phone: +971 (4) 335 5776
Phone: +971 (4) 335 3050
Love your write up and the pictures are stunning. Thanks for inviting me I found a new passion in Calicut Paragon and will be back for crab and probably the prawns – am now sat here drooling :-)
@twitter-60993653:disqus – thank you, and likewise on your post!
Psst. check it out if you haven’t already peeps, she’s done a more balanced, less crab-centric review of Karama Krawl at http://coffeecakesandrunning.me/2012/06/27/3-restaurants-in-3-hours-in-karama-karamakrawl/
Dear fellow crab lover, if you want to try another version of crab, Goan style, head to Karama but on the opposite side of the Dubai Municipality office, look for the mosque which is behind a large parking and take the lane opposite — at the end of the road you will find a neat little restaurant called Erics — the crab curry with steamed rice…..heavenly delight. Also, if you enjoy authentic Maharashtrian veg cusine, next door is a small eatery which serves basic food, just like mums make it.
@twitter-20902615:disqus – I LOVE ERIC’S!!! They have crazy good seafood, bombil fry, pomfret recheido…why haven’t I tried those crabs?! Damage will be undone soon, I’m going to take your rec for crab curry when I hit up Eric’s next. Thank you for the tip! Oh and I did see that new Maharashtrian place open up next door…glad it’s authentic, it’s definitely on my list of must-try’s. Anything I should make sure to order there??
oh @twitter-20902615:disqus , this was my Eric’s review. God I love those prawns and the bombil.
OMG. going there immediately. I hate eating crabs for the messiness but they’re just so darn delicious.
@google-0567ea9c1674430269a25f1a118f0813:disqus – Yes you must! These ones are totally worth the messiness! Actually, there was no mess. I would licked my fingers and plate till they were spankingly clean :)
What a shame I couldn’t join in the crawl! The crabby drama, the colourful special dosas – please tell me you are going to ’krawl’ again. Once the summer’s over may I invite you to a place called Nallukettu on the Ajman beach!!!! There’s a Nalukettu in Dubai Grand Hotel in Ghusais but the journey to the Ajman beach while getting lost several times is worth the crabs and the spicy prawns that they serve. Hail Malabari curry and gravy – my Bong genes are forgetting their allegiance!
@5e8c32b20f4724711dd3c80c2633f364:disqus – I missed you :(
I’m all up for the trip to Ajman! Is the quality of the food better there than in the Dubai branch?
Yayyyyy..am so glad you’re in love with crabs! Personally I don’t like the idea of the claw crackers…love getting down and dirty with my fingers :D We must do this again!
@1ddd2815e96d622f20060949c9424c62:disqus – I don’t know how you do it sister, I need those dang crackers, jabbed my fingers a few times in the past or worse, chucked the shell cause I couldn’t get the flesh out of it. Had I not drowned in my own happy plate of crab bits, I would have watched your fully manual, hand-snapping method more closely!
Arv, glad you tried Paragon.. again! Do unravel their yummy menu for poor citizens like moi..
Though your blog should come with a warning –> Do not read on an empty stomach!! ;-)
@119a2e70a6b9d4b2fea9b36d0cdb09d7:disqus – I am glad too! Wait, isn’t there a branch close to you??
Warning noted, I will find a place to shove it up in the header ;)
You’ve been nominated for spinning some great food-inspired stories :) Read about it here http://platetrotter.weebly.com/1/post/2012/07/food-stories.html and visit http://foodstoriesblog.com/food-stories-award/ for more details
@599865e350232875f9a2104e29b36bb4:disqus – thank you, that is so incredibly kind of you!! and congratulations to you as well on the nomination!
Three locales in three hours … I’m worn out just thinking about it (and the crab) :-)
@FoodStoriesBlog:disqus – hehehe…that’s how I roll (literally, I’m rolling like a stuffed ball by the end of these things!). Luckily, the three restaurants were right next to each other :D
I hate having to crack open crab legs too… last time we ate crab, my cousin from Egypt took one look at the silver cracker thing that the restaurant gives you and said, “In Egypt, we do it like this,” then proceeded to use his teeth to crack it! And I guess he’s not scared of shards of shell in his mouth…. ehhhh gives me the willies. The crab was delicious though :)
@4fe1015a720c7dcc7f05b9615cac454a:disqus – hehehe…I have tried cracking crab legs with my jaws, and I have realized that I have the laziest little boo-peep jaws a foodie can have. Silver cracker thing all the way.
Oh, the crab. OH MY GOD, THAT CRAB! Next time try the claypot one that’s doused in gravy. Let’s go together! (Sad face made from poor lady with a bratty toddler and husband who won’t eat crab)
@9e74f82ae91370ca0ef078c49df1ddad:disqus – I have been craving that claypot crab. LET’S GO-GO-GO.
Foodies like me have savored the weekday daily meal at Calicut Paragon for years now! I blindly vouch for the flavours and never have I walked out disappointed from this place. And that’s
very tough to achieve for any restaurant. How can all the dishes be rated good!!!
Haven’t tried the crabs yet! But the Mango Fish/Prawn curry is a standard order…with the Malabar Kingfish Fry. This post has made me decide my weekend lunch menu already :) Thanks again Arva!
@calvinslogic:disqus – Ah must try Malabar Kingfish Fry, AFTER the claypot crab. This baby goes up on my best seafood list, along with Eric’s ;)
:) am so kicked. am from calicut and it pleases me no end that paragon food is so popular overseas as well! i just happened to buy crab today and i ended up finding this blog and all you folk ( googling for ‘paragon crab’ recipe–surprise ,surprise. :) …dying to show this to my hubby who i still haven’t managed to convert to a paragon /salkara fan- he’s more of a north indian, food wise. :/
Glad you stopped by and saw this post Rekha, you’re from a very special, and VERY delicius place! I’d kill to have the skill to make Paragon style crab at home…hope yours turned out superb!
The post is just WOW!! I loved the king Jullian gig! Mind blowing.
@4590037dbe5fceea5d719ee79a86be4e:disqus – Finally!!! Someone who showed my King Julian prose some much-needed love. Thank you Zerin, if I had a gecko-crown, I would be taking it off and handing it over to you out of sheer appreciation.
See…I just got back from Kerala the other day and am STILL THINKING ABOUT THAT MASALA FRY!?! So yeah I found your blog. For god’s sake someone find out how they do that. I’ll just stop eating all together.