Eggplants Indian Style with Shanghai’s favourite cherry tomatoes

2013-05-26
Eggplant with cherry tomatoes and fried bitter gourd
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Ingredients

  • 500g egg plants (Lebanese variety) – cut into chunky potato chips
  • 1 dozen cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
  • 3 dessertspoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
  • 3 dried red chilies – left whole or roughly chopped
  • 1 level teaspoon whole black cumin
  • 1 level teaspoon whole fennel
  • 1 level teaspoon whole mustard seeds
  • 1 dessertspoon ground cumin
  • 1 dessertspoon ground coriander
  • 1 level dessertspoon Garam Masala or five spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying
  • Fresh coriander for a garnish

Method

Use egg plants that are in season as I did using the long Lebanese variety which was readily available in Shanghai. In a large pan add enough oil to fry the egg plants on a moderate to high heat till they are golden-to-medium brown in colour.  Fry them in a batch at a time to avoid using too much oil and then place them in a colander or a sieve to drain until needed.  In a large fry pan or a wok add the olive oil on a medium-to-moderate heat, when hot, fry the whole spices and the dry chili for about a minute then followed by onions and cook till the onions become soft and turn golden brown but not burnt.   Now add the ginger and garlic and fry for further minute or two till fragrant.

Now add the ground spices and chili powder if used.  Stir for another minute or two.  Add the tomato paste, sugar and the vinegar and cook for at least five minutes to burn off its acidity and keep stirring to prevent it from sticking to the base of the pan.  Add a little hot water to it if needed.  Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for another minute or two, stir and press the tomatoes down lightly to crush them a little and then add the salt.  Return the fried egg plants to the pan, stir, then cover and cook further for a 5 more minutes.  Adjust the seasoning and serve garnished with fresh coriander leaves if desired.

Variations and Suggestions

Cherry tomatoes and long varieties of egg plants were readily available throughout my stay in Shanghai and the tomatoes were juicy and sweet when eaten as fruit!  These tomatoes to my amazement were also sold there as crystallized/glazed fruit.  It had a yummy sweet and sour taste to it like many dried, glazed fruits sold in Malaysia and these were munched on at any time of the day there.

Whole Indian spices can be substituted with a cinnamon stick and star anise and using five spice powder if not Garam Masala to create more of an Eastern dish than Indian. I couldn’t find Indian whole spices there, and neither the garam masala, so instead I used what I have described here.  The dried chilies left whole will not give the intense heat but rather just a flavour, those wanting a hotter taste can use crushed or chili flakes instead.  Tomato paste can be replaced with chopped canned or fresh tomatoes. This dish may have a lot of oil content due to the egg plant absorbing the oil. Use good quality oils and when deep frying ensure that the temperature of the oil doesn’t get cold,  if it does simply turn up the heat, this way the egg plants won’t have the chance to absorb unwanted oils.  This dish can be served with a crusty bread or naan or as desired.

The featured image shows this dish paired with Fried Bitter Gourd in desiccated coconut, a vegetarian/vegan recipe which I shall upload one day. This used to be a favourite dish of my mum’s as she mostly preferred vegan/vegetarian meals on most days.   

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