Kathrikkai curry as it is known in Tamil is a simple eggplant roast, perfect with rasam-rice, dahi-rice, or kadhi-rice. It is aromatic and quite spicy, but not the kind that will burn your tongue. Best had with bland dishes to spiral the yum quotient. The eggplants used here are small, oblong, very firm, purple ones.
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Dish: Kathrikkai Curry (Spicy eggplant roast)
Yield: Serves 4-5 persons
Small purple eggplants / baingan – ½ kg
Mustard seeds / rai – 1 tsp.
Bengal gram / chana dal – 1 tbsp.
White sesame seeds / safed til (optional) – 1 tsp.
Red chilli powder / Lal mirch – To taste
Turmeric powder / Haldi – ¼ tsp.
Salt – To taste
Asafoetida powder / Hing – 1/8 tsp.
Oil (I prefer sesame oil) – 2 tbsp. + 1 tsp.
Spice mix (Curry podi):
Black gram / Urad dal – 1 tbsp.
Bengal gram / Chana dal – 1 tbsp.
Coriander seeds / Saboot dhania – 1 tsp.
Fenugreek seeds/ methi dana – 1/8 tsp.
Asafoetida/hing – a pinch
Roast each ingredient listed under ‘spice mix’ separately. The dals should turn pink. When the coriander is roasted half way through, add fenugreek seeds and asafoetida. Continue roasting till the coriander becomes aromatic. Cool and grind all the roasted ingredients together to almost fine (slightly coarse) powder in a spice grinder. Set aside till needed.
Wash and dry eggplants. Quarter each eggplant lengthwise. If thick, divide into five segments lengthwise. Set aside.
Heat oil till moderately hot in a wok. Crackle mustard seeds. Add Bengal gram dal, sesame seeds (if using), asafoetida powder and roast till the gram turns pink. Stand back as sesame seeds tend to splutter and jump around a bit.
Now add the chilli powder, turmeric powder and the eggplants. Toss so the seasonings are coated well. Add half the salt and toss once more. Cover and cook for about five minutes. Stir occasionally to see that the eggplants are toasted and turn brown, taking care not to burn. Do not cover too long as the steam might turn the eggplants mushy. We do not want them mushy but perfectly cooked and to retain their shape.
When cooked add the spice mix and toss till they coat the eggplants evenly. Adjust salt if needed. At this stage, you can add a tsp. of oil if the stir fry appears too dry. A little oil makes a lot of difference but I use restraint.
Serve with rice and dal / rasam / sambar. This tastes good with phulkas also.
If in a hurry, replace spice mix with off the shelf sambar powder or bisi bela bath powder.
Optional: Add curry leaves while seasoning.