I have always been passionate about food, even as a child. This is not necessarily true about eating. Like any other 10-year-old boy, vegetables wasn’t at the top of my to-eat list. Eggplant was my least favorite vegetable. I couldn’t understand what an ‘I’ shaped vegetable had to offer me and the rest of the world. Carrots had a candy like flavor. Potatoes were just simply fun to eat any way it’s cooked. But eggplant? From its look to its feel, eggplant attacked my very stable palate. All my comforts were disrupted with its mushy texture and boring flavor. While the rest of my family devoured eggplant, I ran around the house hiding under cupboards.
The next time I came into direct contact with eggplant was last year (29 years later) when I attended culinary school in New York. My class was exploring Caponata, a traditional dish from Sicily. I conquered my fears, eyes tight shut, mouth wide open, and clamped on the Caponata. What began as a rebellion against eating eggplant turned into an eternal love affair. I opened my eyes and saw eggplant in a different light: one that would change my eggplant history for the better. Hints of butter mixed in with sugary caramel permeated the sides of my mouth. The meaty texture cushioned my mouth with flavors bouncing back and forth. I wonder why I ran away from eggplant!
Variations: use green chilies for a tangy taste. Omit turmeric for red curry. —Mohan Kulasingam
Red onions, garlic, galangal, curry leaves, lemon grass, carrots, red and yellow bell peppers, cauliflower, eggplant, baby corn, coconut milk
Lemongrass (white part only)
Carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
Red bell pepper, cut into diamonds
Yellow bell pepper, cut into diamonds
Japanese Eggplant, cut into chunkc
Cauliflower floret, broken into bite size pieces
In This Recipe
For the ground spice
2 teaspoons of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
3/4 tablespoon of turmeric powder
Grind all ingredients in a spice grinder.
For the chili paste
(Use 1-2 tablespoons. Reserve the rest for another occasion)
5-20 Thai bird red chili
1 tablespoon of roasted Belachan* (Shrimp paste). Vegetarians may omit this.
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Puree all ingredients in a blender, adding extra water and lime juice.
For the Vegetables
1 whole red onion sliced
3 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
1 piece of Galangal* (4-5 cm length) chopped. You may substitute with ginger
7-10 curry leaves*
3 stalks of lemongrass* (Peeled and bruised leaving white parts)
1 red and orange bell pepper, seeded, cut into diamonds
3 medium size carrots (Skin peeled and cut evenly into 3-4 cm)
2 medium sized eggplants diced into chunks(Use purple Japanese eggplants if available)
1/2 a cauliflower floret, broken into bite sizes
1 can of baby corn
1/2 can of coconut milk
Salt to taste
1) In a deep cast iron skillet, heat some oil.
2) Add in onions, garlic, galangal, curry leaves, lemongrass, and carrots.
3) Begin to sweat these vegetables until the onion edges reach a golden color.
4) Mix in the ground spice and stir.
5) Pour in 1-2 tablespoons of chili paste and continue to cook (use more for added heat)
6) Toss in cauliflower and stir.
7) Add water enough to cover the vegetables and bring them to a gentle simmer.
8) In a separate pan, heat some oil and toss in eggplants. Fry the eggplants until the fleshy side turns golden. Remove and set aside.
9) Once water begins to evaporate, add in eggplants, baby corn, and peppers to the pot, and continue to cook.
10) Add salt to taste.
11) Pour in coconut milk and stir once. Turn off the heat and garnish with chopped cilantro.