Updated: Jun 23, 2021
I love eggplant, and this dish is a favorite of mine. Cooked in a traditional style from Kerala, this dish is spicy and packed with flavor. I have changed the cooking technique a bit to make the dish healthier. Instead of deep frying the eggplant, I broil them in the oven. The result is the same but the dish is not floating in a layer of oil. This dish is spicy, from the chilies, tart from the tamarind, and creamy from the coconut. The soft eggplant is coated in this delicious almost dry sauce infusing it with flavor. I love this dish, and I particularly like this recipe for its balance of flavors and healthy profile.
This is a small volume that I got in the town of Fort Cochin a few decades ago. This cheap (less than $2) and unassuming volume was one we learnt to cook from when we moved to the US. It has seen quite some time in the kitchen, it is falling apart, there a loose pages, the binding is almost non-existent but I still love to cook from it. The recipes are not written well, ingredients are either missing, used twice in the same recipe or sometimes it takes some time to figure out what you need to do. In spite of this, it is amongst the best cookbooks I have for a Kerala-style food.
For more wonderful recipes from this cookbook, click here.
For the curry paste
6 dried red chilies or to taste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1/4 cup fresh grated coconut
For the eggplant:
2 tablespoons mustard oil, or neutral oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek (methi) seeds
1 cup shallots, sliced
1 cup onions, sliced
4-5 large garlic cloves, minced finely
3-5 green chilies, chopped finely, or to taste
4 cups eggplants, if small cut into quarters, or into 1 inch pieces
Salt to taste
Heat the oven to 375° F.
Layer the eggplant on a lined baking tray, sprinkle with salt and spray liberally with oil. Bake or broil for 15-20 minutes till the eggplant are cooked. Do not make them too mushy as they will fall apart in the curry.
While the eggplants are cooking, add the curry paste ingredients to a small blender and purée to a smooth paste. Add just enough water so the ingredients can slide down the sides of the blender. Set aside.
Heat the mustard oil in a large flat pot and add the fenugreek and mustard seeds. Stir and the mustard seeds will pop in about 30 seconds. Add both the onions and shallots and sauté till they are soft and just beginning to color, about 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and green chilies and cook for another 2-3 minutes till the garlic is no longer raw.
Add the pureed curry paste and cook till the water has evaporated and the paste begins to give out oils. The curry should have taken on a wonderful light golden color at this stage.
Add the salt and the cooked eggplants, mixing them in gently so as not to completely disintegrate them. Cook for an additional 10 minutes on a low flame so that you do not burn the masalas.
Serve hot with a sprinkling of minced cilantro on top. Although this is commonly eaten with parathas or chapattis. I also really enjoy this dish with dosas of any kind.