Mr D’s Mozambican Crab Curry

I’ve lived in Joburg since 2010 and as it happens with moving to a new city made a lot of new friends. Many have moved on and some I have lost touch with, some friends I have grown closer to.

One of the things I love about this city is its diversity. Many people with roots from all over the world choose to live here. This means you can have friends from all over the place, who make food that you wouldn’t eat on an average day.

As a cheeky way to learn to make some of these dishes from friends I’ve decided to start a new series for the blog – Cooking with Friends. Basically I invite myself to a friend’s house and ask them to show me how to cook something that’s personal to them.

This is exactly what I did with my friend Carla and she agreed. I was thrilled when she offered to make not one, but two dishes! I met Carla through my dear friend Kate but my husband John and Carla have actually been friends for a long time.

Carla is an excellent cook and also has a sense of adventure in the kitchen. From making her own mozzarella to homemade nougat she is always pushing the boundaries and trying new things – something we totally connect on.

Carla with her box of spices

She grew up in Springs, east of Johannesburg but her family is Portuguese – from Mozambique. There is a large population of people in South Africa with Portuguese heritage. Many are from Madeira, a small island off Portugal while others, like Carla’s family are descendants of colonialists from Mozambique and Angola.

Carla’s parents Roberto and Adelaide

Her family moved from Mozambique, to Iran and then settled in South Africa where she was raised.

Carla’s birth date recorded in a book that documents the entire extended family tree

I recently visited La Rochelle, a suburb in Joburg with Portuguese heritage.

Mozambican food is unique and largely influenced by its trade and colonial history. Spices from Arab traders who arrived before the Portuguese are still present in many recipes.

I suddenly realised, somewhat stupidly I admit, that the Portuguese food I know and love like peri-peri prawns and chicken livers is more Mozambican than Portuguese from Europe. Duh!

Heating the spices in a dry pan to release the flavours

No wonder it’s one of my favourite styles of cooking as it combines Mediterranean flavours of garlic and herbs with chilies and spices.

Unfortunately I never met Carla’s dad but I’ve heard about his great cooking and from friends’ December holidays at Mr D’s house in the south of Mozambique.

When Carla told me she was going to make his legendary crab curry I was so happy. I’ve never cooked crab myself so was excited to learn something new and to overcome my fear and intimidation of cooking shellfish.

The crab is such a beautiful colour

Carla says it’s a dish she remembers as a fun night around the table because it’s so messy to eat.

Mr D’s style of cooking was to cook everything on high, which works well for crab curry because you need to boil the crab first to clean it. He made it with curry powder and tins of chopped tomato and onion.

Since Carla’s got more into cooking she now makes her own spice mix instead of using instant powder from the box.

I still can’t stop thinking about the delicious meat in the crab claws and the incredible flavor of the crab with the spicy coconut milk gravy.

Dinner is served!

Thank you so much dear Carla for sharing this very special and personal recipe with me. I can’t wait to try this again.

Here’s a short video for the method of making the crab curry:



About 800grams – 1 kg crab (get the biggest one you can)

1 tin coconut milk

1/4 cup of dessicated coconut

1 tin chopped tomato

½ cup of beer (or fish stock)

1 onion

2 clove garlic- crushed

Spice mix

Medium Rajah curry powder ( 2 teaspoons)

Tumeric 1 teaspoon

Ground coriander 1 tsp

Cardamom (2-3)

Cloves (2-3)

Jeera (cumin seeds) (1 teaspoon)

Cinnamon sticks (1)

Bay leaves (2)

Curry leaves 3-4

Chilli (optional and to own taste)


Boil crab for 20 minutes with a bit more than a pinch of coarse salt

Rinse under cold water

Set aside to cool

Crack shells open for easy access when eating

Heat spices in a dry pan to release flavor on a low heat

Mix spices with coconut milk

Fry onion and garlic

Add coconut spice mix to the pan, bring to a boil

Add tin of tomato and stir for 5 – 10 minutes

Add beer and desiccated coconut – cook for about 5 min

Blend with a hand blender to thicken

Add boiled crab

Simmer for 20 minutes

Serve with rice – Carla’s choice – Jasmine rice. She says “I like using jasmine rice because its great for absorbing up the juices.”

Dead Combo – Povo Que Caís Descalço

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