When I first made kathrikkai rasavangi, I used a recipe off the web, and called my mother to tell her about it. This was many years back and my mom was flabbergasted when I said I had added lentils. Does that not make it sambar then? There is not much difference in the ground spices so why name it differently at all, she said. Naturally, I had no answer and asked her for the recipe she followed.
My mom hates giving me recipes because I seem to lose them promptly, and then I call her again when I am half way through the dish. It irritates her to no end. However, I cajoled her into sharing it again. This is the version made in my mother’s house, and my children like it better than sambar. The difference lies in the fact that the coconut scrapings have to be roasted to golden brown and that the dish does not contain cooked dal. Instead there is a fistful of cooked chickpeas. This adds to the deliciousness.
A bit about the etymology and probably origin of this recipe;
It is said that sambar and rasavangi etc. are not originally recipes from the South but are modified forms of amti, a tangy gravy made in Maharashtra. In the history of Tamilnadu, there was a time when Tanjavur or Tanjore was conquered by Marathas (Saurashtra then) and the city became a new settlement for many Maharashtrians brought in by the ruler. Over time the culture and cuisine of the Marathas and Tamils blended bringing in many ways. Sambar and Rasavangi (Rasa in Marathi means gravy and vangi means brinjals) are also dishes that came into being as a result of this amalgamation of the West and the South. Therefore, if you have been making this dish differently, it is not surprising and I wouldn’t be flabbergasted. In fact, I would love to know how you came to know the recipe. Often, South-Indians, however like to think of these recipes as their own. And why not? They took something else and made it their own with their local ingredients and flavours but the origin is of interest, isn’t it? In Maharashtra sourness comes from Kokum. In Tamilnadu, we use tamarind.
Recipe: Kathrikkai Rasavangi – Curried Aubergines
Yield: Serves 4 portions as a side dish to be served with rice
Small purple eggplants – 10, quartered lengthwise
(Mine are about 1.5 inches in length. If using large ones, use 2-3)
Cooked chickpeas | Kabuli chana – 1/2 cup
Tamarind, small lime size
Salt – To taste
Turmeric powder – 1/8 tsp.
Coriander seeds – 1.5 tbsps.
Split blackgram | Urad dal – 2 tbsps.
Fresh coconut gratings – 4 tbsps.
Dried red chillies – 2 [or to taste]
Sesame oil | Til oil – 1/2 tsp.
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp.
Curry leaves – 1 sprig
Dried red chillies – 1, split into two, or 2
Soak tamarind in a little hot water for 15 mins. Extract tamarind juice, twice or thrice. It should measure about 1/2 to 3/4 cup after addition of water to extract juice.
Dry roast ingredients for spice-mix individually till coriander seeds are darkened and aromatic, black gram turns pink and aromatic, coconut gratings are brown, and red chillies are a little charred. Check photograph below:
Cool, and grind with enough water to form a thick paste. The consistency would be slightly grainy as shown below:
Heat oil for seasoning. When ready, splutter mustard seeds followed by curry leaves and dried red chillies. When the chillies darken, add brinjal slices and fry till they change colour. Sprinkle a little salt to bring out the juice and help the cooking. Set aside.
Heat tamarind extract in a stainless steel, heavy base vessel till the raw smell is removed. Now add the seasoning mix, along with salt, turmeric powder, and cooked chickpeas. Cook till brinjals are done, soft, but not mushy, about five minutes.
Add ground spice paste, and a little water,if needed. The dish should be as just a tad thinner than sambar. At this point you might need about 1-1.5 cups of water to bring the dish to the right consistency.
Adjust salt after tasting. Cook for a minute or two to bring the dish together. Serve with rice.
Traditionally, the brinjals would be fried in oil and seasoning would be poured on top of the dish, once done. That would mean using oil twice. I have altered the recipe a little to avoid the excess.