Portuguese-influenced Goan eggplant curry
Updated: Apr 25, 2021
The Portuguese were the first European nation to arrive in India when Vasco de Gama reached the Malabar coast in 1498 AD. They proceeded to conquer and settle across the western coast of India. Even today their influence is still evident in the towns of Goa, Cochin and Pondicherry in the architecture, customs and food. The Portuguese came as conquerors, soldiers, traders and missionaries. From a culinary perspective they introduced India to cashew nuts, potatoes, tomatoes, pineapples and even the chilli pepper, most brought over from their conquests in South America. Over time the cuisine in Goa diverged to form its own identity with dishes like vindaloo, sorpotel, xacuti and the famous Goan bread (pav). This eggplant dish is no exception. This is probably my favorite eggplant dish. It is an easy recipe but takes some patience and attention to cook. The flavors come together and pop on your palate. Tart, spicey, rich and creamy this curry has complex tones and layers of flavor making you crave more. This dish is seriously that good!
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1 cup canned tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes, chunked
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
2 tablespoons tamarind extract
2 large or 5 small eggplants, cut into thin, long evenly sized batons
Salt and pepper
3-4 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste
1 generous tablespoon ginger paste
3 generous tablespoons garlic paste
1 tablespoon Goan Spice Powder
1/2-1 red chili powder, or to taste (Optional)
1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
Limes, cut into wedges.
Goan Spice Powder:
4 tablespoons coriander seeds
4 tablespoons cumin seeds
4-10 dried red chilies, or to taste
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
Toast the whole spices for the Goan Spice Powder on a pan individually till lightly browned. Cool completely. Add them to a spice mill or coffee grinder and grind to s fine powder. Store in an airtight container.
Add the tomatoes, coconut and tamarind to a small blender and purée to a smooth paste. Set aside.
Add the eggplant batons to a lined baking sheet and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Spray liberally with oil. Broil in the oven for about 10 minutes till lightly browned and soft. Alternatively, the original recipe calls for shallow frying them in oil, but I want to be healthy. Set aside.
In a pot on a medium flame add the oil and heat . Add the onions and salt and sauté till soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes, do not brown. As a note, adding salt while frying prevents the onions from browning quickly. Add the garlic and ginger pastes, mix well and sauté till they are cooked and smell aromatic. Add the Goan Spice Powder and sauté for an additional minute.
Add the puréed tomato paste and sauté stirring often till the paste thickens and the oils begins to glisten, about 20 minutes.
Add the coconut milk and bring to a gentle simmer, do not boil. Stir well and simmer gently for about 15-30 minutes till the sauce is to a consistency of your liking. I prefer this sauce very thick with a paste like consistency, but you can leave it as wet as you prefer. Taste for salt, chilies and tartness and adjust.
You can decide how you want to serve this dish. The easiest is to fold the cooked eggplant into the curry and sprinkle some minced cilantro on top and lime wedges on the side. I always layer the thick curry at the bottom of a shallow dish or plate and layer the eggplant decoratively on top. I drizzle some of the curry over the eggplant and sprinkle the minced cilantro last and serve with lime wedges. I encourage you to get both creative and decorative in how you serve this dish.