Thai mud crabs are a little more firm, a little smaller–but they taste the same as their humongous Sri Lankan cousins.
Starting in January, Thailand’s favorite Sri Lankan crab restaurant in Phrom Phong started offering Thai mud crabs alongside their whopping great Sri Lankan crabs.
The most famous dish at MoC is the Crabzilla, which weighs in at more than two kilos. In fact, on last visit, the restaurant boasted a 3.5 kilo kraken that was less of a main course and more of a video game boss. The Thai crabs, sourced out of Samut Songkhram’s mangroves, are a little smaller but no less delicious.
"Thai crabs, the meat is a little bit tougher, but the taste is just as good,” owner Chandini Gulrajani tells BK Magazine. “Thai crabs are not inferior to Sri Lankan crabs in any way. Sri Lankan crabs have this reputation of being best because of their size.”
Thai mud crab up close
Only six cities in the world have a Ministry of Crab, and the brains behind the Bangkok venue is Chandini Gulrajani, pescatarian and restaurateur extraordinaire. She opened the MoC in 2019.
We know what you’re thinking, crabs can’t have a ministry because crabs are bad at paperwork. Very astute. The Ministry of Crab comes courtesy of Chef Dharshan Munidasa’s Sri Lanka sensation, originally set up in an old Dutch hospital building in Colombo.
“I’m Thai-Indian but I have family living in Sri Lanka, and one of the best restaurants to go to in Sri Lanka is Ministry of Crab. I always loved going there. That’s where I learned to love seafood.” Chandini says. “I thought Thailand doesn’t have a restaurant that focuses on such good quality crabs, so I’ll bring it to Thailand.”
Though obviously smaller than the OMG!!! Crab or Crabzilla, Thai mud crabs come at the lower end of the crustacean spectrum, just 500-900 grams.
In Bangkok, Chef Harsha runs the kitchen—shipped over from Sri Lanka just like the crabs, Chandini says. An interest in Thai crabs was spurred on by the Covid pandemic, which put a bit of a damper on crustaceans with a Sri Lankan passport, but some prefer their crabs with a Thai smile.
Mighty Crabzilla on the left, Thai crabs on the right
“The Thai crab meat some people notice is a little more firm. And the Sri Lankan crab is very, very soft,” says Chef Harsha. “But to a lot of people, to Thai people who eat a lot of crab, soft crab can mean it’s a bit old. So Thai crab is better for them.”
The crabs here are fresh indeed; the chef will happily bring a dancing crab out to your table to have a look.
So, let’s talk crustacean. The Thai crabs run from ½ kilo (B800) to 900 grams (B2,000), and the sizes go up from there, with the frankly unbelievable Crabzilla starting out at 2 kilos running B8,150, and every 100 grams after that will cost B500. For your crab coating, try the garlic chili, a heavy but not overpowering flavor that compliments the refreshing crab ripped from the already broken claws.
Before you dig into any of this, take the oh-so buttery clams (B290) for a spin. The key to this is remembering the airy kade bread, dipped liberally in the rich clam butter sauce. Prawns follow a similar pricing system, going all the way up to (you guessed it) Prawnzilla at upward of 500 grams (B1,280). But for the meal, opt for the clay pot prawn curry, showcasing freshwater and black tiger prawns in an aromatic curry, a dish that allows you to savor the bigger and sup the smaller at your leisure. And, again, don’t forget to dip the kade bread in the curry until you’re out of bread.
The best part of MoC is it is very, very Sri Lankan in flavor—from the sambal to the coconut creme brulee—with just a dash of Japanese inspiration peppered throughout the menu. Also, not to sound childish, but if you do it right you won’t even have to look at a vegetable; it is a savory, filling, adventurous night of food.
For Chinese New Year, MoC is running a promotion for parties of five or more to get a free half kilo of crab (minimum spend B3,500 on food) from February 1 to 3. And with Valentine’s day–“Just Beclaws we love you” they say–diners get 14 percent (wink, wink) off and MoC is opening especially for the Monday holiday.
"When we opened in December 2019 and when pricing the crabs we ensured we were pricing 10% cheaper than the other seafood restaurants in the market," Chandini says. "Most seafood restaurant in Bangkok like to charge per 100g, which gives you the perception that they are cheaper but in reality that's not the case."
From booking to the graveyard of exoskeletons piling up around you, this is an indulgent crab smorgasbord worth getting excited about.
Thai crab in garlic chilli
Coconut creme brulee
Clams in butter sauce; don't forget the kade bread
Dining in at MoC
Know your crab at Ministry of Crab