Born and brought up in Sri Lanka with an Australian mother, Nimmi came to India to do a degree at Stella Maris College, Chennai, where she met Biddanda Viju Chengapa, and got married to him around 35 years ago.
From being a Director of a Company in Sri Lanka to a Vice Principal of a British School – Edinburgh Hall in Riyadh Saudi Arabia, to running a girls hostel in Mangalore, Nimmi finally ended up running her own homestay Elephant Corridor Coorg in Sidapur.
Nimmi says: “Cooking being a passion, it is a pleasure to see my guests enjoy the meals conjured up by me.”
Here is a crab curry prepared with her own twist. The main recipe belongs to her mother-in-law, the late Dotty Chinnappa. A great teacher, she passed on all her culinary secrets to Nimmi along the way.
“There are many varieties of crabs, fresh water and salt water. In Coorg we get the paddy field crabs called the ‘Kechi Nyanda’ and the larger variety called ‘Kakkale Nyanda’. Then of course the saltwater crabs or the sea crabs which are bluish in colour and the lagoon crabs which are much larger and blackish but turn pink on cooking.”
“My mother-in-law had five sons to feed and so when the crabs came in during the rainy season caught by one of her sons, she would make it go a long way by making little rice otti (rice roti) balls to drop into the curry which would take on the flavour of the crab and thus everybody got enough.”
1 kg crabs (I have removed all the legs and made a soup with it)
½ a coconut grated
4tbs chilli powder
3tbs coriander powder
A marble size ball of tamarind
8 cloves garlic
½ inch piece ginger
All the above is roasted in a tbs of oil till well roasted and golden colour. Then it is blended really fine in a blender. Put aside.
In about 4tbs oil, splutter 1 tsp mustard, 1 tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds, 4 green chillies ½ an onion, 4 cloves garlic crushed and some curry leaves. Add the crab bodies and roast up well in the oil.
Once the crab is nice and roasted, add in the ground coconut mix.
Leave to boil and then simmer. When well-cooked, add the rice balls which are made with cooked rice and rice powder (flour).
Once the curry is done and when the oil comes to the surface, drizzle a tbs of coconut oil over the curry. Nimmi says that her Sri Lankan twist is to add a few drumstick leaves. This is just optional.
Crab curry goes well with rice/akki otti (rice roti).