My father passed away on July 14, 2005 at the age of 64. Being agnostic, I am not in the habit of conducting religious rituals to mark the date of his passing. Instead, I conduct my own little ritual in his memory – I eat crab for lunch.
Dad loved the stuff, was a good cook, and loved seafood. Like all (okay Mark, almost all) the Bolar men, Dad was bald. Some strange genetic crinkle caused his shiny pate to sweat profusely whenever he ate, whatever he ate. The spicier the food, the worse it got. To consume crab curry, Dad had to place a handkerchief or thin towel on his head before he began to eat, or risk having perspiration drip incessantly into his plate throughout the meal.
Dad and Me Against The Clawed Ones
My mother would make coconut crab curry every now and then. Whether she cooked two kilos or four, Dad and I would make sure there was none left for dinner. In a companionable silence broken only by the sounds of shells being crunched and juices being sucked, we would take our time in ensuring that not a shred of meat was left undiscovered amidst the mountains of masticated shell carelessly tossed into our side plates.
In a primal display, we eschewed knives, crackers, scoops, or mallets in favor of our fingers, nails, and teeth. We were savages. Pretending studied nonchalance, we’d race each other for the succulent bellies, sometimes arguing over who’d had more claws, occasionally bartering a hard-to-get-at belly for some instant-gratification legs.
Kudla – Seafood, Must Eat
I will always associate the consumption of crab with those times of shared enjoyment. That’s why I choose to spend every July 14th eating crustaceans rather than lighting incense sticks and moping.
My restaurant of choice is Kudla, on Raja Ram Mohan Roy Road, not because my Dad loved it (he probably never ate there, more’s the pity) but because they have the best butter garlic crab I have ever eaten, anywhere in the world – and they have been serving it consistently for at least six years now.
You choose your crab from the tank at the front of the restaurant (Choice is Yours, Kitchen is Ours, it proclaims), someone brings it to the table for your inspection, you specify how you want it cooked (always, always butter garlic), it waves a claw in sad farewell, and the next time you see it:
All garlicky and buttery and soft and juicy and moist and sweetish inside… just enough seasoning to bring the flavor out, just enough butter to make it slick and sinful. Dad would’ve loved it. I do, and I’m sure he’s stomping his feet in distress at the fact that I’m using him as an excuse to eat delicious crab while he can’t. Too bad, Dad – you shoulda stuck around.
Other things you get at Kudla that he’d have liked:
- bolanjeer (whitebait) fry: crisp, seasoned perfectly, the perfect accompaniment to your drink
- prawn or fish thali: brown or white rice; fried prawn/fish; a vegetable side dish; sambar; fish/prawn curry; paapad; and paayasam for dessert
- kaane (ladyfish) fry: the perfect size, not too oily, your choice of rava or masala fry
- prawn naked fry
This last deserves special mention – It has an unusual, barely-there riceflour crust that’s seasoned with a smidgeon of chilli powder and a generous amount of black pepper. The prawn is tender, not cooked to rubber-ball consistency. I like!
A word of warning: Kudla isn’t exactly a hole in the wall, and the service is usually good, but you don’t really go there for the ambience; it’s all about the food. Kinda like the way most guys don’t watch Mallika Sherawat for her acting prowess…
Rajaram Mohan Roy Road
Phone: 080-65584050, 080-41350000