Ennai Kathrikkai Kuzhambu (South Indian style eggplant gravy) is the “bestseller” of our kitchen. This is actually a Tamil name, where ‘ennai‘ means oil, ‘kathirikai‘ is brinjal/eggplant, and ‘kuzhambu‘ means gravy.
This is that one dish in our household that probably everyone, from elders to kids enjoy. Anybody, and I really mean anybody that visits us, has either repeatedly visited us just to relish this kuzhambu, or have always asked for the recipe. Sometimes, Dad would just bring home sudden guests, and the first question would always be, “Is it Ennai Kathirikai Kuzhambu today?” and when the answer is “no”, there’s always a slight disappointment 😉 My mom was probably the only person that could replicate the taste and now to everyone’s delight, I can as well 🙂
This is grandma’s recipe of course; like all good recipes are. She is eighty four years old now. Her curiosity and eagerness to learn are astounding – I bet she would be game for trying out new recipes, even at this age! 🙂 Her forté has always been South Indian cuisine. Be it a cooking show, cookbook, magazine or even somebody’s kitchen, nothing has ever stopped her from making note of any new, interesting recipes (she has magazine cut-outs and her own set of recipes in the file as well).
This recipe sure might look overwhelming at first, and thats owing to the number of steps. However, its really not complicated, and if you follow it step-by-step paying attention, I promise you will not regret making this! 🙂 Okay, now on to the actual recipe.
- Eggplant/Brinjal/Aubergine- about 6-7 nos- I used the Varikatri variety. You could use any variety of your choice.
- Tomato- 2 large, roughly chopped (to be ground along with the spices)
- Oil- 1 tsp for roasting spices, 3-4 tsp for cooking
- Sambar powder or Idly podi/Chutney pudi for the filling.
- Rock salt/Fine Salt- about a teaspoon or to taste
- Turmeric Powder- 1/2 tsp
- Sesame/Gingelly oil- 2 tsp
To roast and grind
- Channa Dal- 2 tsp
- Urad Dal- 1 tsp
- Coriander seeds- 3 tsp
- Cumin seeds- 1 tsp
- Black peppercorns- 1 tsp
- Fenugreek seeds- 1/4 tsp
- Dry Red Chillies- 5-6 if they’re mildly spiced, else about 2-3
- Coconut- 1/2 cup (grated), or 1/2 cup, chopped
- Oil- 1 tsp
- Mustard seeds- 1 tsp
- Curry leaves- a handful
- Asafoetida- a pinch
- Take about a lemon-sized ball of tamarind. Soak in boiling hot water. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Prepping your Brinjals
- Meanwhile, wash your brinjals, cut off their stalks. Now, make cross slits in each Brinjal, without going all the way through (i.e., they need to have a base).
- Check your brinjals for any defects. Make sure they are white and fresh inside.
- Fill them up with a spice powder (you have many options: Idly podi/Chutney pudi, sabji masala, sambar powder, or simply mix cumin, coriander and red chilli powders along with some salt and fill in).
- I used Idly podi for this recipe (no need to add salt).
The spice paste
- Start with just a teaspoon of oil. We start with the ingredients that take longer to roast, i.e., the Channa dal. Make sure your flame is on the lowest setting. Sauté until they turn slightly golden brown.
- Add the urad dal, sauté for a minute or so. Let them turn slightly golden as well.
- Add the rest of the ingredients excluding the coconut, one by one (in no particular order) and sauté for about 2-3 minutes, or until the raw smell evaporates. Now, you start smelling the aroma of the roasted spices.
- Finally, add your grated/chopped coconut. Now, for grated coconut you could just give it a stir a couple of times and switch off the flame. I used coconut pieces, so I fried them for two more minutes. Transfer to another vessel and set aside.
- In the same oil, add your chopped tomatoes and sauté them until they become slighty mushy and most of the water evaporates. Allow them to cool along with the spices.
- Grind everything together to a fine paste with about half a cup of water (Add little by little and blend well). You may need more or less depending on your ingredients.
- Heat 3-4 tsp of oil in a pan. Add your brinjals and sauté them on a medium-low flame for about 5-6 minutes. Add a pinch of salt while cooking them. You will notice some change in colour, they will also slightly shrink.
- Now, take your soaked tamarind and mash well to release its juice. Discard the pulp. Add this to your fried brinjals.
- Add your rock salt and turmeric powder. Let it boil for atleast 10 minutes, or until the raw smell of the tamarind disappears. By now, your brinjals would have become tender.
- To this, add your ground paste and enough water to bring it to a sambar-like consistency (the coconut and dals will thicken it up as it boils).
- Let this whole mixture boil for about 15 minutes in a low flame. Add this point, check for salt and add more, if required. In the end, add half a teaspoon of sugar (this will balance everything out). Switch off the flame.
- Now, take a small pan and heat a tsp of oil. Add Mustard seeds, let them splutter. Then add a pinch of asafoetida/hing. add your curry leaves and switch off the flame.
- Add the tempering to your kuzhambu. Mix well. Add about 2 tsp sesame oil and mix again. You will be surprised at how its flavour just ties it all together! 🙂
This goes excellently with rice, phulka/roti. Another favourite is having this as an accompaniment to curd rice – heaven on a plate! Serve with some papad/appalam as accompaniment.This keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days. In fact, tastes even better the next day as the time allows the flavours to develop fully.
Do try this and comment below! 🙂