In 1984, we attended a Marathi wedding. In the wedding feast, a dish of brinjal and mochai (field beans) was served, and I was impressed by the taste and even asked for a second helping. My daughter, who was only 10 years old at that time, still remembers that incident. I tried to recreate the dish, but I could not get the exact flavour and consistency. A few months ago a Facebook friend, Vandarkuzhali Rajasegar, who is also an Assistant Professor in Foods and Nutrition, posted that she had made a dish of brinjal and white channa (whole Bengal gram/white chickpea). I immediately asked her for the recipe. Though she gave me a mere skeleton of the recipe, without amounts, I knew immediately that I had hit upon that 1984 dish. I standardised it using mochai, and I got the exact flavour after all these years 😀
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.
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.
The Overseas Women’s Club of Madras had published a cookery book in 1985 and called it Cook’s Tour. The book boasted of “Tried and True Recipes from the members of the Club.” The name of this recipe was intriguing and I tried it out. The taste was not as interesting as the name and I will not be eager to prepare it in the near future. The contributor, Bridget Burkart, tells a good story. Continue reading