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.
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