A Special Eggplant
Sri Lankan Curried eggplant needs no introduction. Spicy, savory, perfectly tender and bursting with flavor, this dish was one we could not stop eating.
Above, the photo on the left is a very special eggplant (more about that in a minute), and the picture on the right is the final product.
Of particular note is from where that delicious heirloom eggplant came. Basically, the girls’ grandfather planted it from seed, but he passed away before the plant produced the eggplant, and so he never got to see the fruit of his labor, quite literally. Though Julia and I insisted they save the eggplant for themselves, they refused to save it, and instead were eager to share it with us. We were honored to be eating such a special piece of food, and were again appreciative for the cooking lesson.
A Note About Eggplant
There are countless eggplant varieties, and many of them will work for this recipe. However, the best eggplants to use for this recipe are either Chinese eggplants (the long skinny ones) or ones that have similar characteristics. Specifically, try to avoid any eggplant (especially the Italian ones) that have a lot of those slimy seeds inside. You’re looking for eggplants that are comprised of most firm flesh, so if you’ve found one like that, you can’t go wrong.
A Note About Temperings
In both Sri Lankan and Indian cooking, dishes are often finished with a tempering. Put simply, a tempering is a spice/herb infused oil mixture that is poured over top of a dish as the final step in the cooking process. If you’ve ever tempered oil before in any other recipe, you are likely familiar with the process. The tempering adds a nice shot of delicious fat and increases the richness of any dish! This recipe contains a tempering, so hold on to your hats, as it’s DELICIOUS!!!
What You’re Going For
This recipe, put very simply, is a savory dish comprised of pan-fried eggplant mixed into a curried onion mixture. And at the end, on top, you’ll pour a tempering. It’s got a somewhat thick consistency and should not be very watery. It can be eaten alone, with rice or with roti. More details in the recipe below!
- For the fried eggplant:
- Chinese eggplants (2-3 10 inch ones)
- Tumeric powder (enough to coat the eggplant once they have been cubed)
- Coconut oil (1/4 cup [~75 ml])
- For the curried onion mixture:
- 4-5 tbsp. coconut oil.
- Garlic paste (made from one entire head of garlic)
- Ginger paste (made from ~2inx2in piece of ginger)
- Red Onion, sliced (1 medium)
- Dried tuna (1/4 oz [~10g])
- Mustard seeds (2 tbsp.)
- Coconut vinegar (1/4 cup [~75ml])*
- Dijon Mustard (1 tbsp.)
- Hot Chili Powder (1/4 tsp.)
- For the tempering:
- Coconut oil (2-3 tbsp.)
- Shallots (7-10, chopped in half)
- Green finger chilis (7-9, whole)
- Cube the eggplant into 1 inch cubes
- Dust the cubed eggplant with salt and turmeric powder
- On medium heat, in a shallow frying pan, heat 4-5 tbsp. of coconut oil. You many need to add more as you fry the eggplant. Adjust accordingly.
- Panfry, until golden brown on all sides, enough eggplant to cover ~75% of the pans surface area. (If you try to panfry too much at one time, the pan will cool too much, and the eggplant won't brown.)
- Place the finished eggplant on a cloth lined plate, as this will help absorb any excess oil.
- Repeat step #4 and #5 until all the eggplant has been fried.
The Curried Onion Mixture
- In the same pan you just used to fry the eggplant, on medium heat, put another 4-5 tbsp. of coconut oil.
- Once the oil is slightly smoking, add the mustard seeds, and stir fry them until they start to sputter and pop. Usually 1-1.5 minutes.
- Add the garlic paste and stir fry it for 1-2 minutes. Then, add the ginger paste and fry it all for another 1-2 minutes. Make sure these don't burn (adjust the heat as needed.)
- Add in sliced onions and dried tuna and salt to taste. Stir fry until the onions are translucent.
- Add the coconut vinegar and dijon mustard, and incorporate it into the mixture. Cook this for another 1 minute.
- Add in the fried eggplant, and make sure to thoroughly, but gently, mix all the ingredients together. Cook this for 3-4 more minutes. Then, place all of this onto a serving dish.
- Again, in the same frying pan, put 2-3 tbsp. of coconut oil, and heat it on medium until you see a little smoke, then add in the shallots and green finger chilis. Stirfry these for 2-3 minutes.
- Carefully, pour all the contents of this frying pan over top of the serving dish containing the eggplant and onion mixture.
*Any mild flavored white vinegar will do.