Eggplant or brinjals (Vambotu in Sinhalese) was never a favorite of mine growing up. That is, until I tasted this dish at a dinner party given by some Sri Lankan friends. Ever since then, when we’ve gone to their house, I have to have it, and the hostess Aunty Manel always indulges my request. This vegan dish is probably the tastiest preparation of eggplant that you will ever eat. Though a little labor intensive with the deep-frying, it’s still well worth the effort. Just make sure that when you fry the eggplant it remains firm. (My mother even said to leave it for a few hours after frying before making the actual dish.) This time it came out a little mushy in consistency, but still tasted great. You can eat it with rice, but Sri Lankans usually prefer to eat several curries together, so I prepared some fish ambul thiyal (the recipe can be found on a earlier episode of Pan Asian), paripoo or lentils, and mallun (sauteed greens). That’s a typical Sri Lankan meal–what we call ‘rice & curry.’
This recipe and many others will be featured in my upcoming cookbook, Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking, which will be released by Hippocrene Books at the end of October.
1 lb. (500 g) eggplant
1/4 tsp. turmeric
oil for deep-frying
2 tbsp. oil
1 onion, sliced
2-3 green chilies, sliced
1 sprig curry leaves
2 inch (5 cm) stick cinnamon
1 tbsp. raw curry powder
1-2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. brown mustard seeds, ground
1/2 cup (125 ml) coconut milk
salt to taste
3 cloves garlic
2 inch (5 cm) piece ginger
1 tsp. sugar (A)
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup (125 ml) water
1.) Wash and cut eggplant into 2 in (5 cm) strips. Rub with salt and a dash of turmeric.
2.) Deep fry eggplant until golden brown. Drain on newspaper.
3.) Blend (A) list ingredients in a food processor.
4.) Heat oil in pan. Sauté onions, green chilies, and curry leaves until onions are translucent. Add cinnamon, cloves, and dry spices.
5.) Add (A) and bring to a boil.
6.) Reduce heat and add eggplant, coconut milk and salt. Toss well and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Serve with rice.