Andhra Spiced Eggplant
In the Subcontinent, eggplant (known as brinjal in Hindi, begun in Bengali, and bengan in Urdu) is sometimes roasted, then flavored, a technique that perhaps traveled there from Central Asia. The tender mashed flesh has an inviting smoky taste all on its own (even when the eggplant is oven-roasted, not grilled over a fire).
In this condiment from Andhra Pradesh, roasted eggplant is mashed, then briefly stir-fried with soft-cooked onion and spices. At the last minute, a little minced raw shallot is added for freshness and bite. The flavors are rounded and the textures lush; there’s a little cayenne and green-chile heat, and some sweetness from the slow-cooked onion.
- 4 medium-long purple Asian eggplant (about 1½ pounds)
- About ⅓ cup raw sesame oil or vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic or garlic mashed to a paste
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed or coarsely ground
- 2 tablespoons minced green cayenne chiles, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots
- About ¼ cup coriander leaves for garnish (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 450°F, or heat a charcoal or gas grill.
- Lightly rub the eggplant all over with oil and prick each one about ten times all over with a fork.
- If using an oven, place the eggplant on a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan and bake in the center of the oven until the skin is brown and the flesh is softened, about 45 minutes.
- If using a grill, grill, turning often, until thoroughly softened. Don’t worry if the skin is charred. Set the eggplant aside to cool.
- Heat ¼ cup oil in a wok or karhai (see Glossary) or a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.
- Toss in the onion, garlic, cayenne, turmeric, and cumin and stir to mix well.
- Lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is well softened and translucent but not browned, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut the eggplant in half and scrape the pulp from the skin. Place it in a bowl (discard the skin) and mash well with a fork. Set aside by your stove top.
- Add the chiles to the onion mixture and stir-fry for about a minute, then add the eggplant pulp and salt and stir-fry for several minutes more, using your spatula to blend ingredients together. (The turmeric-tinted oil will coat the eggplant and the pan.)
- Just before serving, stir in the minced shallots and stir-fry for about 1 minute.
- Turn out into a bowl and sprinkle on some coriander leaves, if you wish.
Serve hot as a dip for Chapatis (page 110) or pitas, or as a topping for rice.
Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent
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