Toasted Coconut Eggplant Curry (Vazhuthananga Theeyal)
Eggplants. It's a love-hate relationship. For me, what it comes down to is its preparation. It's all in the flavours. Because eggplant takes on flavours beautifully.
Hands down, the best way it's made is grilled and smothered in spices. Honestly, who doesn't like a bit of a crunch and an explosion of flavour with each bite?
So, now that I've got you salivating, that isn't the preparation I went for today. Sorry, guys. I love my spices and I really, really wanted to perfect my theeyal (toasted coconut curry) - it's a delicious play of spices on the palate and I made it earlier with bitter gourd. The aroma itself is intoxicating.
Nevertheless, I still haven't gotten it completely spot on - to add to that, I've yet to cook theeyal using shallots, the more traditionally used variety of onions. Not sure if the taste will be much different, but don't worry guys, I'll make the ultimate sacrifice and make this delicious recipe once more and report back. As they say, third time's the charm! Definitely living the hard life. :P
What's on the menu
So today, I decided to give eggplant/ aubergine/ brinjal (vazhuthananga in Malayalam) the same treatment I gave the bitter gourd - a lot of loving and a generous helping of spices :) - and boy, did it deliver! Basically, all things remained the same except I used more eggplant than I did the bitter gourd (purely incidental - I just bought more from the wet market). Technically, I should have added more water for the dish to actually have the consistency of a curry but the flavours were so on point I decided to leave it as is. Who am I to mess with perfection :P
Now, how to enjoy said perfection on a plate? I paired it with mixed rice (a brown and white grain mix I got from the local supermarket) and beans thoran. Living the vegetarian life so inhaling as many greens as I can, and the extra fibre from brown rice definitely can't hurt. You can enjoy it any way you'd like it - I'm just here to give you ideas :)
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Re the blender: I use a small handy blender. Which I find perfect for the tiny kitchens of Hong Kong. It allows me to put it away neatly and bring it out with ease (thank you wrap-around cords). Bonus, particularly for this recipe, it's large enough not to have to blend in batches. Major winning.
Re woks: if you're living in Asia, you can come by a wok with relative ease. Look out for those with a dual handle (long one for easy flipping, the other for easy holding), flat bottomed, carbon-steel (max heat retention without any warping nor as heavy as steel) and with a fitted lid. If you can't find one that ticks all the boxes, we highly recommend the following as a kitchen basic:
1. In a pan, heat coconut oil and add the grated coconut. Fry till golden brown. Add the chilli, coriander and turmeric powder, pepper, fenugreek and mustard seeds. Stir for 2-3 minutes till the spices have been well introduced to the grated coconut. Switch off flame, transfer the spiced grated coconut to a separate dish to let cool.
2. Heat coconut oil and add the onions, Once it starts changing colour, add the cut eggplants. Cook till the eggplants change colour. Add the tamarind paste (squeeze the tamarind well and remove the skin). Add 1/2 cup water and salt. Cover and cook till eggplants are cooked. Approx 8-10 minutes.
3. Grind the now cooled spiced grated coconuts (no need to add water). Add this paste to the eggplants. Add 1 cup water and bring to a boil. On low flame, cook for an additional 5 minutes to evaporate excess water. Remove from flame.
4. Serve :)