Way back in 1982, I asked my students to plan and prepare a South Indian meal. One of my Tamil Muslim students presented this speciality dish of her family which, despite being Tamil, she referred to by its Hindi name Khatte Baingan (Khatte – sour; Baingan – Brinjal). I was captivated by its flavour and the ease with which she prepared it. It goes amazingly well with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian biriyanis and pulavs.
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.
In Tamil Nadu we combine prawns with various vegetables and greens to provide the most delicious and nutritious dishes. Today I have chosen to present prawns cooked with brinjal (eggplant), which is a vegetable available through all seasons. The addition of vegetables to prawns extends the dish so that many people can enjoy it.
My aunt Cynthia moved to Madras (Chennai) in the summer of 1962, to stay with her son who was working here. We used to spend weekends with them, and she prepared egg-coated eggplant one evening as a side dish for our dinner. I used to dislike brinjal (eggplant), because my mother treated it as a staple vegetable. But this Muttai Kathirikkai as my aunt called it, changed my taste perspective of brinjal. I took a liking to the vegetable, and I ate it without protest from then on.
My father’s sister, Cynthia, was a wonderful cook. She would prepare delicious meals with a variety of dishes in the menu, with a minimum of fuss. She did have a maid, though, to help her with the pre-preparation and grinding, which I don’t have. Therefore, I have reworked the recipe in a way which allows one to make it simply and easily.