The Stuff of Curry Nightmares Is Now My Dream Come True

January 10, 2017

Throughout the remarkably boring history of my life, I've hated tomatoes in curries. I don’t mean to be rude. My dislike for tomatoes in the many curries of my childhood has been a matter of staunch principle since the age of eight. There’s nothing worse than a Bengali deem (egg) curry with lugubrious tomatoes from a can, floating in a pool of thick broth. Little lumpen creatures, the color of magma.

And eggplants? I’m sorry to say these are worse. (I promise I don't hate everything.) So intense was my dislike for these tuberous aubergines in curry that I even convinced myself, for a brief but vital period of my childhood, that I was allergic to eggplant. Feigning an allergy was a matter of necessity. Anything but the eggplant.

Well, that was a lot of throat-clearing for some good news. At first glance, Dr. Purnima Garg’s Tomato and Egg Curry, submitted to us seven years ago by luvcookbooks, sounds like a dish lifted directly from my childhood gastronomic nightmares. It’s for this reason that I approached it with grave suspicion as I prepped dinner “tonight.” But quelle surprise, folks—maybe my principles aren’t so rigid after all. This recipe for eggplant and tomato curry worked against my innate prejudices, forcing me to reconsider my long-held buffalo stance on the tomato, eggplant, and curry. It also takes fewer than 20 minutes to cook.

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Dubstep on over to the grocery store first, folks, because here's what you'll need (organized by area of the store):

  • Four long, thin Japanese eggplants, sliced into 1/2 inch thick pieces.
  • 14 ounces of canned and diced tomatoes. Preserve that liquid—it's essential!
  • Some brown mustard seeds. Get enough for a teaspoon.
  • Cumin seeds. You’ll need one teaspoon of these as well.
  • One serrano chile that you’ll need to seed and chop finely. Dry chiles also work!
  • Some coriander. You’ll need a teaspoon.
  • Some garam masala. You’ll need 1/4 teaspoon for the recipe.

I’m going to assume that you’ve got canola oil (you’ll need 1 tablespoon), onions (1 sliced onion), salt (1 teaspoon), and black pepper (1/2 teaspoon) in your arsenal already. If not, add these to your list, too.

About 20 minutes before dinner, here we go. Please get a large frying pan, like the one in the photo above—it should be at least three times the circumference of your head. Now, heat that oil until it begins to glisten and glimmer. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and heat them up for about half a minute. Soon enough, they’ll start to pop. Isn’t this the best part? Please just make sure to shield your eyes and face; you don’t want seeds grazing your porcelain skin or lodging themselves in an unwanted orifice, do you?

Now fling those sliced onions into the mix and stir them over medium-high heat. They should get brown. If you’re fearful of the onions burning, add a splash of water or oil periodically. Once these onions have browned, throw those eggplants into the pan, baby, and bronze their skin and soften their flesh. Shake in that chile, coriander, garam masala, and tomatoes. Sprinkle the salt and pepper on there, too. You’ll need to turn the heat to medium-low now, making sure the eggplant gets softer as you cook.

The eggplant should become fully tenderized before you take the mixture off the stove and serve it. The curry pairs well with white basmati rice, some achar (spicy, pickled Indian lime), and, if you’d like, some plain yogurt, whether it be Chobani or a tub of Dannon. Add a dash of protein while you’re at it—like roast chicken or grilled lamb. To me, though, the tomatoes and eggplants, two ingredients I never really gave a chance, stand on their own.

See the full recipe here.

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Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


luvcookbooks July 8, 2017
Hi, thanks for the article and rewrite of the recipe. It's so easy and good! I am off diced tomatoes (some additive to make them crunchy) and squish whole tomatoes into small pieces instead. Ox your writing. You have added a new dimension to Food52.
Smaug January 10, 2017
Tuberous aubergines? Are you sure you don't mean nacreous, or maybe peripatetic?