The vegetarians of Thirunelveli prepare this Ennai Kai Kuzhambu as a speciality dish. The name Ennai Kai is derived from Ennai Kathirikai because the same masala is used. The flavour is very grand and delicious compared to Vendhaya Kuzhambu. It is served only with white rice, though the name may suggest being served with biriyani (biriyani goes better with Khatte Baingan or Sweet and Sour Brinjal Masala). I usually serve this with keerai kootu or Urullaikkizhangu Pittu.
This preparation is much more labour intensive than other curries. My mother didn’t make this very often as the ingredients had to be ground on an ammi (grinding stone), and the maid would usually grumble. Though I don’t have a grinding stone or a maid, I make this more often as I have adapted this recipe for the mixie/blender.
Kathirikai/eggplant is very poor in its nutrient content. However, this vegetable is available throughout the year in Tamil Nadu, and people have learnt to use this in a variety of dishes. It is the other ingredients that are added which contribute to the nutritive value. The oil and coconut added in this curry contribute calories, but even that is not very much when you consider the individual portions.
- 500g Purple Kathirikai (Brinjal/Eggplant)
- ¼ tsp Mustard Seeds
- ¼ tsp Turmeric Powder
- ¼ C Gingelly Oil (Sesame Oil)
- 1 T Salt
- 2 sprigs Curry Leaves
- Ball of Tamarind (that can fit into your fist)
For the Masala
- ½ C diced Onion
- ½ C Coconut scrapings
- 6-7 Dry Red Chillies (deseeded)
- 1 T Coriander Seeds
- ½ tsp Fenugreek Seeds
- Soak the tamarind in 1 C hot water for 30 minutes. Squeeze and extract the juice. Repeat thrice till you have 2 cups of tamarind extract. Strain and discard the residue in the strainer.
- Roast the ingredients under For the Masala individually. Cool.
- Powder the red chillies, and the coriander and fenugreek seeds in a mixie or blender. Add the roasted coconut and grind. Finally add the onion and grind to a smooth paste. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of water and mix for easy transfer.
- Quarter the kathirikai.
- Heat the oil in a pan or a large kadai.
- Add the mustard seeds. When they crackle, add the kathirikai and fry till the vegetable becomes tender.
- Add the turmeric powder and stir.
- Add the ground masala and stir till the masala looks fried.
- Add the salt and the tamarind extract.
- Add a little water if the gravy is too thin.
- Boil for a few minutes.
- Add the curry leaves and remove from heat.
- Take care to roast the masala on low heat. Even a slight scorching will ruin the flavour of the curry.
- This curry is usually prepared with the small, deep purple eggplant. The light violet slender vegetable also gives good flavour.
- The green eggplant does not suit this recipe.
- Gingelly or Sesame oil is the preferred oil for this curry. You can use any other vegetable oil, but it may impact the flavour.