Three Indian seafood recipes to whet your appetite: Prawn Pulao, Alleppey Squid Masala and Sri Lankan Crab Curry

Sapna Anand's version of Sri Lankan Crab Curry.
Sapna Anand's version of Sri Lankan Crab Curry.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

(THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - An invitation to one of Sapna Anand’s get-togethers is certainly something to look forward to.

Not only because she’s an accomplished cook whose credentials speak for themselves – she’s a Le Cordon Bleu graduate and author of New Indian Kitchen – but also because she always has something genuine and sincere to share.

As a result of her origins and travels, Sapna’s experiences with food have been wide and varied, and it is this wealth of inspirations and influences that have shaped her changing tastes and constant experimentation.

She says when coming up with festive meals for instance, she likes to think outside the box.

“The whole idea is how can I impress? What can I do different? Everybody has eaten the usual – let’s do something new. So I think that’s why people want to come to our house because they know there will be something different,” she says.

Over the years, Sapna’s Deepavali meals have evolved and taken on a life of their own. She serves up different dishes from different Indian states, sometimes adding her own twist to things.

As a little girl growing up in the coastal state of Goa in India, Deepavali meals centred on a host of sugary confections – diamond-shaped doughnuts, murukku, deep-fried dough stuffed with coconut, brown sugar and sesame seeds as well as a simple curry rice.

After she got married, Deepavali meals took on a different tone – lots of ladoos, gulab jamuns and traditional South Indian staples like lime rice.

It was only after she travelled and moved away from India, that Deepavali food became whatever her heart desired.

“It started becoming my Deepavali, the way I wanted it,” she says with a laugh.

So you’ll see mouth-watering dishes like Sri Lankan crab curry, Kerala-style Alleppey squid masala and Goan-inspired prawn pulao all come together on her table during the festive season – or anytime a treat is called for.

“The three dishes are a perfect combination, because the rice is really mild and has no overpowering flavours except for a little bit of spices. The crab curry is strong in flavour, although not strong in terms of spiciness, but the squid is spicy, so it balances everything out,” she says.

Her Sri Lankan crab curry is designed around the crab curries she tried when she was in Sri Lanka. From those repeated samplings, she came up with her own version, built around a spice blend made using coriander, cumin, fennel, peppercorn and a host of other spices.

The Kerala-style Alleppey squid masala is based on a recipe she got from a lady who lives in the area. According to Sapna, in Kerala, the dish is traditionally enjoyed with family over lazy Sunday lunches and goes well with alcoholic beverages.

Prawn pulao meanwhile, is a Goan specialty that is typically served at weddings and festivals, as the state is host to an abundance of fresh seafood. Sapna says the prawns add a lot of flavour to the rice, and this mild dish pairs well with other more robustly flavoured dishes.

Sapna also favours quick, easy-to-make dishes that take little to no time to assemble and cook, and designed most of her recipes around this.

So the squid can be marinated overnight and only needs to be fried in spices later, a process which she says takes all of eight minutes. The dish can even be made a day before, giving the squid plenty of time to absorb the flavours of the spices.

Even the crab curry can be mostly made a day earlier, and just needs to be topped with coconut milk on the day, while the prawn pulao can be put together earlier and reheated just before you want to serve it.



Makes 4 servings


3 tbsp ghee

1 cinnamon stick

2 cloves

1 star anise

1 bay leaf

1 onion, chopped lengthwise

1 tbsp garlic paste

1 tbsp ginger paste

500g prawns, peeled and deveined with tails intact

½ cup chopped green beans

½ cup chopped carrots

1 cup basmati rice, washed, soaked and drained

1½ cup prawn stock or water

salt to taste

½ tsp black pepper


1. In a wide heavy bottom pan, heat 2 tablespoons of ghee, toss in the cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise and bay leaf. Stir for a few seconds on low heat, toss in the chopped onion, and fry for about 5 minutes.

2. Add the garlic and ginger paste, fry for about a minute, then add the prawns, stirring to mix well.

3. When the prawns turn slightly pink, add the chopped vegetables and stir fry for a few seconds.

4. Then add the rice and stir to combine all the ingredients. Pour in the stock and season with salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon ghee.

5. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting and cook, covered, for 7 to 10 minutes, or until rice is cooked. Gently fluff rice with a fork – or pair of chopsticks.

6. Keep the rice covered and let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.



Makes 4 servings

500g small squid, cleaned and cut into rings


1 tsp chilli powder

¼ tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp black pepper

2 sprig curry leaves

1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste

1 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil

Salt to taste

1 to 2 tbsp lemon juice


1 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

2 sprigs curry leaves

1 tbsp fennel seeds

4 to 5 shallots, cut into rings

½ tsp coriander powder

1 tsp chilli powder

2 tbsp lemon juice

Salt to taste

Coriander leaves for garnishing


1. Season the squid in the marinade ingredients and set aside for at least 30 minutes to an hour.

2. In a pan, heat oil, and add the mustard seeds. When they start to splutter, add the curry leaves, fennel seeds, and shallots.

3. When shallots turn translucent, add in the marinated squid, and stir-fry for about 4 minutes, then put the coriander powder, chilli powder, lemon juice and salt in and continue to cook for about 5 minutes or till oil starts to surface and bubble. Don’t cook for too long or squid will become overcooked and rubbery.

4. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve warm with rice.



Makes 4 servings


5 tbsp coriander seeds

2 tbsp cumin seeds

2 tbsp fennel seeds

1 tbsp black peppercorns

1 tbsp mustard seeds

2 tbsp white rice

2 cinnamon sticks

1 star anise

4 cloves


2kg blue swimmer or mud crabs, shell lightly cracked and cut into two

4 tbsp cooking oil

1 sprig curry leaves

2 cinnamon sticks

3 pandan leaves, roughly chopped

1 tbsp finely chopped ginger

1 tbsp finely chopped garlic

2 large onions, finely chopped

1 large tomato, chopped

1 tsp chilli powder

½ tsp turmeric powder

1 heaped tbsp Sri Lankan curry powder

Salt to taste taste

½ tsp crushed black pepper

½ cup water

½ cup fresh coconut milk

Coriander leaves for garnish


1. Roast each ingredient for the curry powder separately over low heat until aromatic.

2. Remove from heat immediately and set aside to cool.

3. When cooled, blend everything together to a fine powder. Store in an airtight container if not using immediately.

4. In a wide, heavy-bottom pan, heat the oil, and toss in the curry leaves, cinnamon sticks, chopped pandan leaves, ginger and garlic, and saute for about 2 minutes or until fragrant.

5. Toss in the onion and cook until soft. Then add the chopped tomatoes and stir to mix well.

6. Add the chilli, turmeric and curry powders and crab, and stir well to combine. Season with salt and black pepper.

7. Pour in water, adding more if you want the curry less thick.

8. Cook with lid on for about 5 minutes or until crabs are cooked, then add coconut milk and bring to a slow boil for a few seconds.

9. Garnish with coriander and serve with warm rice.