A flavorful recipe for Brinjal Curry (Indian Eggplant) gently simmered in a fragrant Masala sauce until meltingly tender. Serve with Indian-style Basmati Rice and naan bread for a delicious vegetarian or vegan Indian-inspired meal.
There isn’t a tree in the world the wind hasn’t shaken. ~Hindu Proverb
Here’s a delicious and healthy Indian recipe, called Brinjal Curry that highlights little eggplants and simmers them gently until meltingly tender in the most fragrant Masala Sauce. It takes about 1 1/2 hours to make so make this on a day when you have a little more time to spend in the kitchen.
Ingredients in Brinjal Curry:
This recipe will may require a trip to your Asian Market– where you’ll need curry leaves, dahl, fresh shredded coconut (frozen), black mustard seeds, tamarind paste and tiny eggplants. A fun outing- of course wearing your masks. 🙂
What type of Eggplant to use in Brinjal Curry?
Typically a little, dark purple eggplant called Indian Eggplant are typically used in this recipe, but they are hard to find where we live so today we are using Thai eggplant.
Essentially any small eggplant will work here- Indian, Thai, fairytale, Japanese White Eggplant and Little Green Eggplant, less than 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Any larger will increase the simmering time- so just be prepared for that if going in that direction.
These Thai Eggplants are slightly bigger than a golf ball- so pretty tiny!
Start by cutting a crisscross slit into the eggplant almost all the through, leaving the stem side intact so the eggplant doesn’t fall apart when cooking. You can trim the stems off – or leave them on. I find them pretty cute.
Cover the eggplant with warm salted water for 30 minutes while you prep the other ingredients. Open slightly so the saltwater gets inside.
Then make the flavorful masala spice paste.
This starts with sauteing a little dry dal – ural dahl, or graham dahl or use split lentils. These will get blended into the spice paste and will work to thicken the sauce.
Add all the spices, toasting them until fragrant.
You’ll need fresh shredded coconut with can be found in the freezer section of most Asian markets. This is different from regular shredded coconut – this is actually fresh, not dried.
Add the coconut to a blender along with the toasted spices, salt and dahl. Pour in some water.
Blend until the dahl is broken up and it becomes a thick paste. Set this aside.
Make the Tamarind Water. In a medium bowl, mix tamarind paste, water and brown sugar.
Now you ready to cook the eggplant. It starts with tempering the black mustard seeds.
And the fresh curry leaves– both of which elevate this dish, so don’t leave them out.
Next, add the eggplant, and taking your time here, saute until the skins begin to blister slightly.
Then add the sliced onions.
Saute until the onions start melting and are translucent.
Add the tomatoes and give a stir.
Add the masala paste from the blender and mix to combine.
Stir the Masala Spice Paste for a couple of minutes until fragrant.
Pour in the Tamarind water.
Stir in the tamarind water and arrange the eggplants nicely in the sauce.
Bring the Brinjal Curry to a simmer, cover, and simmer gently for 20-25 minutes.
Give another good stir, and if possible, let some of that flavorful liquid get inside the eggplant, opening them up with two forks.
Arrange the eggplant once again, cover, and simmer for another 20-25 minutes.
Uncover and check for tenderness- they should be collapsing and tender. If not, continue simmering covered.
NOTE: If the sauce tastes “gritty”, it may be the dahl has not fully cooked through and dissolved into the sauce, so continue simmering covered until the dahl fully melts into the sauce.
Once the Brinjal Curry is cooked through, uncover, let it simmer uncovered for a few minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken.
Taste for salt, adjusting. If you like a little more tang, add a squeeze of lemon if you like. If you want it slightly sweeter, add a bit more brown sugar. Heat, add cayenne.
Find your own perfect balance here. If for any reason this tastes bland, it most likely needs salt.
Top with fresh cilantro or more fried curry leaves.
You’ll love the aroma here, warming and delicious.
Hope you all love Niecy’s Indian Eggplant Recipe as much as we do… let us know in the notes below!
- 20–22 small, round or egg-shaped eggplant a little larger than a golf ball (3 to 3 1/2 lbs) ( like Indian eggplant, Thai Eggplant, Fairy Tale, Raavayya, Japanese White Egg, Ratna, Rhim Jhim, etc.)
Masala Spice Paste:
- 2–3 tablespoons coconut oil, or ghee
- 4 tablespoons dry lentil dahl (split lentils– red , yellow or orange) or use ural dahl (split white lentil dahl), or yellow mung dahl ( split mung beans)
- 5 dried whole red chilies ( like Indian Curd Chilies or Chile de Arbol)
- 4 tablespoons garam masala
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 fat garlic cloves
- 3 inches ginger, sliced thin
- 1 cup (fresh) grated coconut (easy to find in the frozen section at the Asian market)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cup water
- Make 2 cuts down the center of the eggplant to make an x, but only about 3/4 of the way down so that the eggplant is still intact. See photo. Place in a big bowl and cover the eggplants with warm water and mix in 2 tablespoons salt , let soak for about 20-30 mins, opening the eggplants a little if possible, and let stand while you prep the remaining ingredients. Drain.
Make the SPICE PASTE:
- Heat ghee on med-low heat. Saute, stirring the dahl until it becomes golden and lightens in color, and get pretty toasted all the way through, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium and then add dried chilies, garam masala, turmeric, coriander seeds, and black pepper. Stir until spices toast and become fragrant. Remove from heat and add dahl & spice mixture to a blender with the grated fresh grated coconut, whole garlic and sliced ginger. Add the salt, 1/2 cup water (or a little more- just enough to get the blender going) and pulse and blend until you have a uniform paste, adding more water to get the blender going if need be. Break up that dahl! Set aside.
Make the Tamarind Water: whisk with a fork the tamarind paste, brown sugar and water in a medium bowl. Set Aside.
- Heat oil on med heat in a saute pan or braiser and saute mustard seeds until they start to crackle, add asafoetida and curry leaves. Saute one minute. Then add the eggplant and stir often, until their color changes and the skin looks a bit blister-y, about 10-12 minutes.
- Add the sliced onion to the pan, stir and saute until onions become transparent.
- Add the masala spice paste and stir so all of the eggplant is covered. Cook 3-4 minutes stirring.
- Add the tomatoes and the Tamarind Water. Stir, and space eggplant evenly and make sure it is all mostly covered with the liquid. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 min.
- Open the lid and rearrange the brinjal, slightly prying them with a spoon so they open up a bit and soak up all the gravy. Cover and simmer for 20-25 more min.
- Check again. Eggplants are done when they are meltingly tender and collapsing. Taste the sauce. If it tastes gritty, it is likely the lentils have not fully cooked and incorporated into the sauce, so continue simmering covered until the lentils dissolve. If too tangy, add a little more brown sugar and possibly salt.
- Cook uncovered for 5 minutes to thicken up the masala sauce and concentrate those flavors.
- Taste for salt, adding more if necessary- please see notes!
- Garnish with chopped cilantro or fried curry leaves (sauteed in ghee to enhance flavor) and serve with basmati rice or naan. Enjoy!
Adjust the flavor. If you like a little more tang, add a squeeze of lemon or more tamarind water. If you want it slightly sweeter, add a bit more brown sugar. For more heat, add cayenne.
Find your own perfect balance here. If for any reason this tastes bland, it most likely needs salt. 🙂
If it tastes gritty, the dahl is not fully cooked, keep cooking – it should dissolve into the masala sauce.
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