The Indian tradition of biryani has a convoluted history and a likely Persian origin. It developed in the kitchens on the Mughal empire, spread across India morphed into 500 and counting biryani traditions and somewhere along the line crossed the Palk Straits with the Indian Muslims to Sri Lanka. On the island the biryani took hold and localised using similar, if fewer spices to the Indian biryani.
Ministry of Crab’s Chef Darshan Munidasa has given the sumptuous rice dish his own spin with the Sri Lankan lagoon crab (aka mud crab) as the main protein. He has turned down spices a few notches to let the crab meat shine through. A kilo and a half of mud crab (750 grams after it is deshelled) is cooked with fragrant basmati rice and spices. This is not a layered biryani in the Indian tradition but cooked more like a pilaf. The spices practically the same but used with a restrained hand: turmeric, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, perhaps a touch of nutmeg, cloves, black pepper and red chilli. It is also served in the same clay pot it is cooked in, intensifying the aroma and taste. After it is cooked the crab is deshelled and the biryani topped with six boiled eggs.
The aromatic rice is served with a sambol of mint leaves, garlic, onion, green chillies, lime and salt. The rough texture a clue that it has been hand-ground on a traditional miris gala (grinding stone). A classic Malay pickle also accompanies the dish.
Wash it down with a Catalan wine – El Gos Blanc by Blackbird, a 100 per cent grenache blanc wine (Priorat DOQ). This Spanish white with its floral andfruity nose of rose and lychee, and round, full flavours make it perfect for crab. The Crab Biryani is available in two sizes: serving 2-4 diners for THB 1,590++ or THB 2,690++ with a bottle of wine; or serving 4+ diners for THB 2,490++ or THB 3,590++ with a bottle of wine.