India is a vast country and when I say vast I mean really vast. Each state, each region even each village has special cuisine. Even if one wanted, it is next to impossible to sample all the food in India, not that I’ll give up though. So, today I wanted to bring to you a blog I have been admiring for quite some time. Harini, the author of Tongue Ticklers is one of the few vegan bloggers in India and specializes in South Indian food, which is often naturally vegan and even gluten free. I always suggest friends with eating restrictions to embrace South Indian food which is not only delicious but often healthier as well.
I met Kulsum through a guest post I did for Xiaolu. Since then we have been in touch through predictable mediums like Flickr and Facebook. I have admired her eye for composition and framing and love her photographs. When she asked me whether I would do a post, it came as a pleasant surprise. Her request was that my post should be a naturally vegan dish. I hope this simple roasted curry from Palakkad, which made me change my opinion about eggplants wins you over.
Traditionally we use small, purple eggplants about two inches long and not very thick. This variety cooks fast, is not pulpy and hence suited for stir fries/roasting. The dish owes its delicious taste to the curry podi or spice mix.
Dish: Kathrikkai Curry (Spicy eggplant roast)
Yield: Serves 4-5 persons as a side dish with rice
Small purple eggplants / baingan – ½ kg
Mustard seeds / rai – 1 tsp.
White sesame seeds / safed til (optional) – 1 tsp.
Red chilli powder / Lal mirch - To taste
Turmeric powder / Haldi – ¼ tsp.
Salt – To taste
Asafoetida powder / Hing – 1/8 tsp.
Oil (I prefer sesame oil) – 2 tbsp. + 1 tsp.
Spice mix (Curry podi):
Black gram / Urad dal – 1 tbsp.
Coriander seeds / Saboot dhania – 1 tsp.
Fenugreek seeds/ methi dana – 1/8 tsp.
Asafoetida/hing – a pinch
Roast each ingredient listed under ‘spice mix’ separately. The dals should turn pink. When the coriander is roasted half way through, add fenugreek seeds and asafoetida. Continue roasting till the coriander becomes aromatic. Cool and grind all the roasted ingredients together to almost fine powder in a spice grinder. I say ‘almost fine’ because I prefer it a little grainy. Set aside till needed.
Wash and dry eggplants. Quarter each eggplant lengthwise. If thick then divide into five segments lengthwise. Set aside.
Heat oil till moderately hot in a wok. Add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add
Bengal gram dal, sesame seeds (if adding), asafoetida powder and roast till the gram turns pink. Stand back as sesame seeds tend to splutter and jump around quite a bit.
Now add the chilli powder, turmeric powder and the eggplants. Toss them so the seasonings are coated well. Add half the salt and toss once more. Cover and cook for about five minutes. Stir occasionally to see that the eggplants are toasted and turn brown, taking care not to burn. Do not cover too long as the steam might turn the eggplants mushy. We do not want them mushy but perfectly cooked and to retain their shape.
When cooked add the spice mix and toss till they coat the eggplants evenly. Adjust salt if needed. At this stage, you can add a tsp. of oil if the stir fry appears too dry. A little oil makes a lot of difference but I resist myself here!
Serve with rice and dal/rasam/sambar. This tastes good with phulkas also.
If in a hurry, replace spice mix with off the shelf sambar powder or bisi bela bath powder. But, I recommend making it fresh.
Optional: Add curry leaves while seasoning.