Sour Baingan Masala


Here is a baingan/brinjal/eggplant recipe that seeks to recreate the flavours of some preparations from various parts of South India but which doesn’t follow a traditional recipe. This, I have to warn you, may not be for everyone. I think it’s delicious but it is very sour. The missus is not a fan. Even I wouldn’t eat it by itself but with dal and rice I think it’s great, especially after the second day when the tamarind has done its pickling magic. Deploy it almost as you would an achaar. Or I suppose you could be a weenie and tone down the amount of tamarind you use. Your choice. But I would suggest you don’t. That’s because this is really two recipes in one. Make it with two pounds of eggplant as described and keep half of it aside for a simple adaptation that will appeal greatly to members of your household who object to too much tamarind sourness. 

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs long eggplant, cubed
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 tspn black mustard seeds
  • 3-5 dried red chillies
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 tblspn freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tspn freshly grated garlic
  • 1 tspn haldi
  • The following ground together into a coarse powder: 2 tspns cumin seeds, 2 tspns coriander seeds, 1 tspn black peppercorns, 1 tspn fennel seeds, 1 tspn white poppy seeds, 1 tspn sesame seeds, 1 tspn Sichuan peppercorn, 1/2 tspn fenugreek seeds
  • A large ball of tamarind pulp, a little smaller than a golf ball, soaked in two cups of hot water, squeezed and strained.
  • Two tblspns jaggery or brown sugar
  • Salt
  • Oil

Preparation

  1. Heat 2-3 tblspns of oil over medium heat and add the mustard seeds. As they begin to sputter add the chillies and the curry leaves.
  2. As soon as the leaves and chillies turn glossy add the onions. Saute for 5-7 minutes till the onions are beginning to turn golden.
  3. Add the ginger and garlic and saute for another minute.
  4. Add all the masalas, mix in and saute for another minute.
  5. Add the cubed eggplant and salt and mix in thoroughly. Stir-fry for 10 minutes or so til the eggplant has begun to shrink considerably.
  6. Add the strained tamarind paste, pushing down on the strainer to get as much of the pulp as you can.
  7. Add the jaggery/sugar, bring to a high simmer and cook uncovered till the water has mostly evaporated, stirring from time to time to make sure it doesn’t stick at the bottom.
  8. Let it sit at least 8 hours or overnight before serving with rice and a robust dal (I’d recommend either the chhilka moong dal or the toor dal with garlic and pepper).

Notes

  1. The eggplant cubes should still be holding their shape at the end.
  2. I guess you could eat it right away too but I think it’s better once it has matured a little and much better once it has matured a lot. This is the kind of dish that tastes better with each day that it sits.
  3. You could, I suppose, cut the amount of tamarind in half for a less sour result. Or you could substitute 2-3 tblspns of balsamic vinegar for it. If you do either of those things be sure to taste before adding the sugar. If you’re really sour-averse you could leave out the tamarind/vinegar altogether and this would still be very good (just add water). And remember: using that nasty tamarind concentrate is not going to make anyone like this any more.
  4. As for the spice mix you could adjust the cumin and coriander up or down relative to each other and see how you like it. For more heat you could increase the amount of pepper as well. But I think it is quite balanced as it is.
  5. The adaptation I referred to above is very simple but between the fact that it effectively becomes a completely different dish and the fact that I am shameless I will make a separate recipe post for that either this weekend or next week.

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