Braised Spicy Eggplant in Ginger-Tamarind Sauce

Sweet and Sour Eggplant

Since I leave for work quite early, my daughter likes me to write a short note to her so she can read it when she wakes up. She looks forward to that. She keeps all those notes in a box in her room. She also keeps notes from the “tooth fairy” along with her tooth and the money she gets from the “tooth fairy”. She writes notes to the “tooth fairy” whether to take her tooth or not. The “tooth fairy”, also known as my wife, writes her a note back as to how good a girl she has been or how well she is doing in school etc. And because of my daughter’s good behavior, she leaves her a dollar instead of the customary 25 cents. A funny thing happened last week. My daughter was going through her collection of notes both from me and the tooth fairy and she decided to compare my wife’s handwriting and the “tooth fairy’s” handwriting. She calls my wife and tells her, “Mom, how come the tooth fairy’s handwriting and your handwriting matches exactly! Are you the tooth fairy? How come the tooth fairy knew that I was going to a new school?” Well, there goes the tooth fairy legend. I guess my 8 year old daugther is growing up and figuring things out. Not sure if she still believes in Santa Clause. We will know this Christmas.

I had quite a few egg plants from the farmer’s market that were staring at me and asking me to cook them. They were sitting lonely in the refrigerator. Sometimes, I am completely out of ideas and that is when either I hit the library or browse through the various cook books and magazines for ideas. I found a recipe in the Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking which uses tamarind, jaggery and fresh grated coconut. Most of the time when I am cooking, I usually have a vision of how it should look and taste. This time around, I had no idea how it was going to come out. But I decided to make it anyway. I hesitantly tasted it and it was quite good. I asked my wife to taste it and she absolutely loved it.

Braised Spicy Eggplant in Ginger-Tamarind Sauce

This recipe has been adapted from the excellent cookbook – Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking

1-inch round ball tamarind
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, roasted, cooled and ground
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
2 tablespoon jaggery
(or brown sugar)
5-6 long Japanese eggplants
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup packed, flaked coconut
(fresh or frozen)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

Bring 3/4 cup of water to a boil. In a glass bowl, add the tamarind pulp and the water and let it soak for 30 minutes or so. Mash the pulp. Take a strainer and pour the contents through it in another bowl. Squeeze as much tamarind as you can through the strainer. Add the roasted, ground cumin seeds to the mixture. Stir the mashed jaggery (or brown sugar) and grated ginger and let it sit till the jaggery (or sugar) is melted.

Chop the eggplant so that you get 1-inch round cylinders. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot enough, add the mustard seeds. Fry until the popping subsides (have a lid handy as they fly all over). Add the garlic and fry for 10-15 seconds. Be careful not to burn them. Add the eggplant and fry for 5-6 minutes. Make sure to turn the eggplant so that both sides of the eggplant pieces get cooked.

Add the ground coriander, ground cinnamon, ground cloves and stir so that the eggplant pieces are covered in spices and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Then add the coconut, cayenne pepper, salt and the sweet and sour tamarind-ginger sauce. Stir carefully so as not to break the eggplant pieces. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, covered. Taste the eggplant for doneness. If not, cook until done.

Add the chopped cilantro for garnish and let it sit covered for a minute or so.

Makes enough for 4 people

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