The boys blessing crab, Jaffna
If there’s one thing that seems to unite Sri Lankan travellers, it’s the constant quest for crab. This flesh of sea insect is craved and devoured by all ranks and stations with gusto. I have spent many hours driving around extremely random places for crab, especially lagoon crab, effectively the cocaine of crab connoisseurs. Personally I find crab a bit stressful being as you sorta have to kill the thing again to get the meat out. That said, I have had a few lagoon crabs that were fat as hens, and that was pretty good. Crab is like crack though. Everybody I know seems to be looking for it. So where do you get?
Honestly, Singapore. I’m pretty sure that the best crab is shipped out almost immediately. The one time I had proper lagoon crab my junkie friends finagled it from some guy in Jaffna that was about to ship it out. I have no idea how to procure that source again. Go to Casuarina beach and ask the fishermen where the UN hostel is, I guess. I write this post not as a guide, since I don’t know. I’m hoping that people would post any clues they have in the comments.
Jaffna lagoon crab
On one level I’m sure you can get crab at Cinnamon Grand (that place by the pool) or any of the five star hotels. Seeing as the crab is not coming from the pool this seems kinda pointless, ideally one would find these things on the beach. In Colombo, however, I think that the New Yarl Cafe is a pretty good bet. That is a street eatery on Station Road in Wellawatte, just off Galle Road. It is literally a hole in the wall, about 10 meters in from the main road. They have crab. I’ve heard it’s pretty good, but I get stressed out enough in there eating spicy food and blowing my nose with newspaper. I can’t deal with crunching through crustacean and haven’t tried. What else in Colombo, maybe Beach Wadiya, but I’ve honestly never seen crab there. Who knows.
One option is to go to St. John’s Fish Market at like 6 am and get crabs there. My friend used to party all night, buy crabs and leave that at home for his mum to prepare whenever he woke up. I suppose that’s an option.
Dude catching crabs
Of course, we have a lot of coast and one can actually go where the crabs are. North of Colombo is prolly the best bet. I’ve had decent crab at Brown’s Beach Hotel in Negombo, but I don’t know that area well at all. Wattala is closer, but again, area is unknown to me. Pegasus Reef doesn’t even have crab on the menu. The Chilaw rest house can prepare crab, but you need to order ahead and we could never find their number. Puttalam rest house as well, presumably but we dropped by there one night and it was strangely terrifying. Didn’t go in. Perhaps I’m wrong.
Crab at the Jaffna Fish Market, Rs. 200 per kilo (few months ago)
Then of course there is Jaffna, holy of holies, mother of all crab. I had some damn good lagoon crab there, but you need some serious junkie radar to find it. I actually find Jaffna to be a bit sparse and slow in terms of restaurants. The best thing is to go to the fish market and buy crabs, they’re way cheaper than Colombo. Or were. Then whoever at the guesthouse can cook them. We literally lit a fire in the yard, which works out well enough.
I can’t say that I’ve ever had crab on the East or South Coast, but it is surely possible. In Batti they can scare some up at the Riviera, but again you need to order in advance. And that is all I know about crab. It still stresses me out, both the getting and the eating. However, crab remains one thing that Sri Lankan eyes glaze over for, so worth knowing how to procure. Any clues?