Morton--sometimes spelt as Morten--Bay bugs are my favourite crustacean. Easy. The meat-to-shell ratio isn't too bad in comparison with, say, scampi and crab. The flavour is tops. And too, in Melbourne, where the bugs aren't as popular as they are in Sydney, they're reasonably affordable. I picked up a few on special today and figured I'd make a curry with them.
Of course, if you're not from Australia, you probably don't have access to bugs at all. I'm not sure if we export them, but if we do they'd probably be ridiculously overpriced. Feel free to substitute the bugs with a crustacean of your choosing--scampi, prawns, crayfish, crab, whatever. Keep in mind you may need to adjust the quantity of gravy and cooking times if you're using something other than bugs. This recipe makes enough for two people.
8 Morton Bay/Balmain bugs (12 if they're small)
200 mL can coconut milk
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large shallot, peeled
1 small lump of ginger, peeled
1 piece of tamarind* that's about the size of your thumbnail
1 small lemon, juiced
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp freshly ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp poppy seeds
vegetable, sunflower or peanut oil
steamed rice, to serve
Place the piece of tamarind in 100 mL hot water and set aside.
Combine 100 mL of the coconut milk with 200 mL water. Leave the other 100 mL undiluted.
Blitz the spices, garlic, shallot, ginger, lemon juice and 1 tsp water in a food processor. This will be your curry paste.
Extract the meat from the tails of the bugs by twisting the tails off and then breaking a couple of tail segments with your fingers or the tip of a knife. If you do it right, you'll be able to pull the meat out in one piece.
Heat a generous splash of oil in a small saucepan over a low flame. When hot, add the curry paste and fry for five minutes. Add the diluted coconut milk. Stir. Cook for fifteen minutes. Pluck the tamarind piece out of the water it was soaking in. Don't worry if there's a little bit left behind. Pour the water, along with the undiluted coconut milk, into the saucepan. Cook for a further fifteen minutes before adding the bug meat. Simmer for a couple of minutes or until cooked through.
Use a pair of tongs to fish out the bugs and distribute them evenly atop two piles of steamed rice. Spoon over the gravy and serve.
* Tamarind can be found in Indian and Sri Lankan grocers. You can buy it in concentrate form, but in this recipe we're using a bar. In my local places, at least, tamarind bars are sold near the spices. They're about the size of a small block of chocolate and look, well, kind of nasty. Like they're mouldly. Feel free to substitute the concentrate for the bar, but be careful--the concentrate is really potent stuff, so you'd only want to use the tiniest amount.