Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sri Lankan Eggplant Curry (Vambotu Curry)

When I talk about eating vegetarian food with people, I am frequently told how many people dislike tofu and eggplant, two common staples in a vegetarian diet. The reason is always texture. I'm not a very texture-sensitive person in general, so it's never bothered me and I enjoy tofu and eggplant all the time. But this eggplant curry made me see. Oh, did it. You can kind of tell by the picture that the eggplant got soggy and weird, and it turned almost into more of a shiitake mushroom-like texture, which is not really okay when it's an eggplant. But most importantly, this just wasn't very good. I was really disappointed because it came from a cookbook I respect, but it was not awesome. I would not make this again. It's recipes like this one that cause people to think they hate eggplant!


Sri Lankan Eggplant Curry (Vambotu Curry)
Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian

Serve this with plain rice. You may make it as hot as you like. The original recipe called for 2 tsp of cayenne! Normally the eggplant is fried. I have tried to cut down on oil by broiling it instead.

1 pound eggplant
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or more as desired
4 teaspoons fresh lime or lemon juice
1 small cinnamon stick
15 fresh curry leaves (use basil leaves as an interesting substitute)
1 small onion, peeled and cut into fine half rings
3/4 cup coconut milk from a well-stirred can
2 teaspoons ground brown mustard seeds

1. Preheat the broiler, placing a shelf about 6 inches away from the source of heat.

2. Cut the eggplant crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick round slices and put the slices in a broiling tray. Rub 1 Tbsp of the oil on both sides of the slices and then sprinkle both sides lightly with salt and pepper. Place the tray under the broiler and cook one side for about 4 minutes and the other side for about 3 minutes, or until both sides are a pretty, reddish color. Remove and quarter each slice. Put the sections in a bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt, the cumin, coriander, turmeric, fennel, cayenne, and lime juice. Toss gently to mix.

3. Put the remaining 1 Tbsp oil in a large, preferably nonstick frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the cinnamon stick and a second later, the curry leaves. Stir once and put in the onion. Stir and fry for about 2 minutes, or until the onion has browned a bit. Put in the seasoned eggplant. Stir and toss for 4 minutes. Combine the coconut milk and the mustard seeds and pour the mixture over the eggplant. As soon as it starts bubbling, turn the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for 3 minutes, stirring gently now and then. Check for the balance of salt, cayenne, and lime, adding more of whatever you need. Serve hot.

Yield: 3-4 servings

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