Ministry of crab

Anyone who has visited Singapore and is interested in gastronomy has heard of its famous Chilli Crab, a sumptuous dish of spicy and sweet flavors that quickly takes us to the seafood Olympus when prepared with exceptional products and care. The recipe originated from Malaysia and took Singapore by storm in the 1960s thanks to its strong Malay community; most people need to learn that most of these magnificent mud crabs make their way to the city-state from Sri Lanka.

In the past, the mud crab was a common element of the country’s cuisine. Still, the demand for export crabs, which can cost hundreds of dollars, has made this delicious crustacean practically disappear from Sinhalese homes and restaurants.

On the board, we can see the sizes of crabs available on the day.

That was the premise for creating Ministry of Crab when chef Dharshan Munidasa while recording one of his TV shows, became fully aware that one of his country’s noblest products was more valued outside than inside. Two legends of national cricket joined Dharshan, and in 2011 the “ministry” was born, installed in the historic Dutch Hospital in Colombo, and with the registered intention of serving the best that the country has to offer, be it crabs, prawns -Malay giants or the beautiful spices. Frozen shellfish are not allowed here (there are not even freezers), the minimum caliber is 1/2 kg to ensure the continuity of the species; and the best that their suppliers have is what arrives at the restaurant every day.

The decoration maintains respect for the design of the historic Dutch building, with wood and orange fabrics occupying a large part of the restaurant, the highlight going to the Crabs and Shrimps displayed right in the open kitchen.

A “small” specimen that ended up on the table

“Keep Calm and Crab On” is the motto, and that’s what we followed to the table; we started with good bread and butter and a refreshing Dharshan answer to sugar-laden sodas, Iced Tea Soda, made with peach lime tea and soda.

Local Oysters – Aged Soy, Hot Sauce, and Lime
A good start with oysters raised in Sri Lanka served well chilled with a bit of spice, a great aged soybean, fruit of the chef’s Japanese origins, and lime to refresh the set.

Crab Pâté – melba toasts and palm sugar syrup
This moment was a real snap, an umami bomb that should serve as a lesson to all the mayonnaise-filled “cobbler fillings” we find all over Portugal. The inside of the crab is slow-cooked, reduced, and ground with good seasoning. Delicious on toast and Kade bread, a ubiquitous bread in Sri Lanka.

Giant Freshwater Prawn – Chili Garlic Sauce
Big, with the head filled with flavour and the body cooked to the right point, it went perfectly with the olive oil, garlic, and chili sauce. Spicy enough it was impossible not to lick your fingers every time.

Mud Crab – black pepper sauce
I had already eaten good specimens in Singapore, but this crab took everything to another dimension. Sweet, juicy, buttery, spicy, and rich are some adjectives we can put on the table when enjoying one of these specimens. We can quickly look at this crab and Darshan’s work as we look at Elkano and his Turbot. Unique and unmissable for anyone visiting the country!

Coconut Crème Brûlée
To end a party that had already been going on for a long time, we couldn’t leave without a dessert made with coconut, or this wasn’t the coconut used for everything in Sri Lanka, here the coconut traveled to France to combine with a delicate brûlée that turned out to be soft, creamy and balanced in sweetness. A happy ending!

The service was relaxed and informal, but knowledgeable about the product and room techniques.

Final remarks
Dharshan’s work in preserving, restoring, and paying homage to such a noble product from his country is unique. It reveals his Japanese roots, where perseverance and resilience are more common among cooks. The product that arrives at the table is of rare beauty and quality, and the kitchen knows how to respect it with Japanese precision. Ministry of Crab is indeed one of those restaurants that make the detour and destination worth it while staying in our memory for a long time. Did you come back? I will definitely be back; this crab is one of the most important reasons to return to this enchanting country.

This is what being an ambassador of culture and cuisine is!

Ministry of Crab
Prices from 80€ – (without wines)
Old Dutch Hospital Complex, 04 Hospital St, Colombo – Sri Lanka
+94 77 0024823

Portuguese Version

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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One Comment

  1. Posted August 30, 2023 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    nice information and good article thank you

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