Kakrar Jhal

Bengali crab curry with a twist

  • Cooking time
    90 minutes
  • Calories
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Kakrar jhal is a light yet fiery crab curry common in many Bengali (and indeed eastern Indian) households. This recipe is exactly how my paternal grandmother cooked crabs, with one interesting twist of our own—which is that we sometimes add a little mustard paste towards the end. The extra pungency really adds to the "jhal" (heat) 🌶🦀🌶

The video also includes a detailed step-by-step process of cleaning a live crabs that is safe and relatively easy for beginners, who may not be confident handling live crabs. Putting crabs in the freezer at temperatures under 4ºC puts them in a state of torpor, and makes them less likely to feel pain. It also reduces their mobility for easier handling. Then they are briefly put into boiling water, which kills them instantly.

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6 servings
  • 1 kg kakra (crabs)
  • 200 g potatoes
  • 100 g mustard oil
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1⁄2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 200 g onions
  • 10 g garlic
  • 30 g tomato
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1⁄2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1⁄2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp kashmiri red chilli powder
  • 25 g ginger paste
  • 10 green chillies
  • 2 tsp mustard paste
  • 30 g total salt
  • 20 g total sugar
  • 350 ml hot water
  • 1⁄4 tsp shahi gorom moshla


  1. Cut and clean the crabs. Marinate them with 10 g salt and 1⁄2 tsp turmeric.
  2. Slice onions thinly, quarter the potatoes, and chop tomatoes. You may leave green chillies whole or slit them.
  3. Heat about 40 g mustard oil in a pan to begin with. Fry potatoes until golden with a dash of salt. Set aside.
  4. Add the marinated crabs to the pan. Fry on medium heat for a minute. Set aside.
  5. Add about 60 g more mustard oil to the pan. Temper with dried red chillies, bay leaves and cumin seeds.
  6. Add onions and fry them on low heat, with pajn covered, for about 20 minutes until they are soft and browned.
  7. Add garlic paste and fry for 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and fry 10 more minutes.
  8. Make a slurry of the powdered spices: turmeric, cumin, coriander, red chilli and kashmiri red chilli. Add it to the pan. Braise the onions with the spices for 10 minutes or so until oil separates.
  9. Add ginger paste and cook until the raw smell dissipates.
  10. Add the fried potatoes and green chillies. Cook for a couple of minutes before adding hot water, the remaining salt and sugar.
  11. Optionally, for a sharp twist, add mustard paste to the gravy at this stage.
  12. When the gravy starts to bubble, add the fried crabs. Cover and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.
  13. Finish with shahi gorom moshla.

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