In Thirunelveli, stuffed eggplant is known as Ennai Kathirikai, which actually means eggplant fried in oil. This dish is considered to be exotic, maybe because the masala is roasted and ground and the brinjal is stuffed with it. It is usually served in vegetarian feasts. The leftover stuffing is fried in the leftover oil and in the tamarind juice used for cooking the eggplant and served along with the stuffed brinjal, and therefore nothing is wasted during the preparation of the dish.
Though brinjal is available throughout the year, this dish was specially prepared at the end of May as that is when we used to get very tender kanmaai kathirikai that is harvested from the kathirikai plants grown in water bodies (kanmaais), which run dry towards the end of Tamil spring and make a fertile bed for growing brinjal. After the brinjal is harvested, the plants are removed to receive the South-West Monsoon rain.
Kathirikai/brinjal/eggplant does not contribute nutrients in significant amounts. In fact, apart from a small amount of the vitamins folic acid and choline, the energy, protein, and mineral contribution is negligible. The dish provides energy from the oil that is used to fry the stuffed brinjal.
- ½ kg small purple Brinjals (Kathirikai/Eggplant)
- Small, lime-sized ball of Tamarind
- ½ tsp Salt
- 1 C Hot Water
- Gingelly/Sesame oil for shallow frying
For the stuffing
- 5 dry Chillies, deseeded
- 1 T Coriander Seeds
- ½ tsp Fenugreek Seeds
- ¼ C Coconut scrapings
- 1 medium Onion, sliced
- 1 tsp Salt
- Broil the ingredients for stuffing individually. Cool.
- Grind the chillies and coriander and fenugreek seeds in a blender or mixie.
- Then add the coconut and grind.
- Add the onion and salt, and grind.
- Remove the stem of the brinjal, leaving the calyx intact. Quarter the brinjal, still leaving the calyx end intact.
- Extract the juice from the tamarind using one cup of hot water.
- Boil the brinjal in this tamarind water with salt for a few minutes.
- Drain the tamarind water and set aside. Allow the brinjal to cool.
- Stuff the brinjal with the ground masala, taking care that the brinjal does not come apart. Set aside the leftover stuffing.
- Heat the gingelly oil in a non-stick skillet.
- Fry the brinjal a few at a time, turning them over gently so that the brinjal is not broken.
- After frying all the stuffed brinjals, add the leftover stuffing to the oil and stir. Add the tamarind water little by little so that a very thick gravy is obtained (do not pour).
- Spread the gravy on the serving plate and arrange the stuffed brinjals on it.
- Traditionally only gingelly oil is used for this preparation. If you don’t like the flavour of gingelly oil you can use sunflower oil. Groundnut or peanut oil does not lend itself to this dish.
- The brinjal should be tender. A green calyx will hold the brinjal together when you quarter it. If the calyx is dry, it will fall off and the brinjal will come apart.
- The brinjal is boiled in tamarind water only for a few minutes. If you cook it longer it will disintegrate when you stuff it.