Update (April 2008): Mark Bittman adapted this recipe and featured it in his Minimalist column in the New York Times.
I don’t think I need to reiterate my love for eggplant. My mom has been making this dish for many years, but I never bothered to learn how to make it.
When I was home this past weekend, I noticed some small eggplants in the fridge and my mom told me to take them with me and make this curry with them. I had never made it before, but she assured me it was incredibly easy to make. She was right – the whole thing took under 20 minutes to make, there was minimal cleanup (courtesy of microwave cooking), and the best part is that it tasted exactly like my mom’s version of it.-----
South Indian Baby Eggplant Curry
10 small egg-shaped eggplant
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon sambar powder
1 tablespoon chickpea flour
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
Dash of asafetida
3 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut*
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
* I use frozen shredded coconut, which is available at Indian grocery stores. If you can't find this, you can use sweetened shredded coconut - soak it in hot water for a few minutes (to remove the excess sugar) then drain well.
In a small bowl, mix together the oil, sambar powder, chickpea flour, asafetida, and turmeric. Heat on high power for 1 ½ minutes, stirring halfway through. Add the coconut to another small bowl and heat on high power for 1 ½ minutes, stirring halfway through. Add the coconut, salt, and tamarind to the bowl containing the spice mixture.
Remove the lid from the dish, gently stir the eggplants, and add more salt and sambar powder if necessary. Return the dish to the microwave, uncovered, for another 3-4 minutes.
Serve with basmati or jasmine rice and yogurt.