Where “achaari”=”a la achaar” where “achaar=Indian pickles”. There are actual baingan/brinjal/eggplant achaars/pickles—this is not one of them. Instead, as with most achaari recipes, this is made with ingredients that you would use in pickling. There are a large number of variations in how this general family of eggplant dishes is made; this is the one I use more often than not. It comes together very quickly and easily and it is very tasty indeed. As made in this recipe it is also quite hot but you can adjust that down by either using less red chilli powder or using a mild chilli such as Kashmiri or the slightly hotter Byadgi chilli. Either will be available from Amazon if there isn’t a South Asian store doing curbside pickup near you. But I do hope there is a South Asian store doing curbside pickup near you because the recipe calls for curry leaves. It’s not the case that you can’t make the dish at all if you don’t have them but it’ll be much better with a sprig of this otherwise un-substitutable ingredient.
- 2 lbs long Asian eggplant, cut into small pieces
- 1 tspn black mustard seed
- 1 tspn peeled, split urad dal
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- 1 medium red onion, minced
- 1 tspn grated garlic
- 1 tspn grated ginger
- The following ground to a coarse powder: 2 tspns black peppercorns, 2 tspns fennel seed, 1 tspn coriander seed, 1 tspn cumin seed, 1/2 tspn fenugreek seed
- 1 tspn red chilli powder of choice
- 3/4 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
- 2 tblspns apple cider vinegar
- 1 tblspn jaggery or brown sugar
- 1 cup water
- Salt to taste
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saute pan and when it shimmers add the mustard seeds.
- When the first mustard seeds begin to splutter add the urad dal.
- As the urad dal begins to darken and the mustard seeds start popping, add the curry leaves.
- Stir for about 10 seconds and add the onion.
- Saute the onions till browned for about 10 minutes.
- Add the ginger and garlic and saute for another minute or two.
- Add all the powdered spices, mix and saute for 30 seconds or so.
- Add the eggplant and salt, mix thoroughly and saute till all the peel has changed colour and the eggplant has begun to wilt.
- Add the vinegar and sugar, mix thoroughly and saute for another 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the water, bring to a high simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, till the water is mostly gone and the eggplant is softened but still holding its shape.
- Serve with dal and rice or chapatis.
- The black pepper is more important to the overall flavour than the red chilli. So if you want to make it less hot either use less chilli powder or a less hot chilli powder but don’t reduce the amount of black pepper.
- Alternatively, leave out the chilli powder and add a few slit Thai chillies along with the vinegar and sugar.
- I like this with apple cider vinegar or even regular white vinegar. But feel free to use Chinese black vinegar or balsamic if that’s what you have. But maybe reduce the amount of sugar if you do.
- If you don’t have urad dal but have channa dal, use that instead.
- If leaving out the curry leaves, garnish with a bit of minced dhania/cilantro. (It may be just me but I don’t like mixing curry leaves and dhania in the same dish.)