Sunday, September 23, 2007

Vambotu Pahi (Tangy, Spicy Eggplant)

I have a Srilankan friend who is a wonderful cook, the fish, shrimp and chicken dishes she cooks are spicy tasty and though stuffed to the gills is never enough. She also cooks this amazing Eggplant dish which has become my all time favorite. I have always enjoyed this dish at their house and never attempted to cook it myself because if I want more I can always go back there, she lives close by :). The last time we were at their house, I asked for the recipe (had a bunch of eggplants from the garden and this recipe was foremost on my mind) in addition to the recipe directions she also gave me her favorite cookbook, The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon. I did not deep fry the eggplant, nor make a paste of the onion, ginger and garlic like it had called for and I also added some tomatoes, drastically reduced the amount of oil because I did not deep fry. My friend bakes the eggplants, I sauteed them on high heat in a wok.

This recipe also incorporated mustard paste which I have been wanting to, ever since Sandeepa's Shorshe Chingri Bhape. Now I get it! Cooking in mustard paste is like no other and I can imagine(and almost taste) how it would be perfect with fish or shrimp. They are going to be tried real soon. I tasted a little bit of the mustard paste and it tasted slightly bitter but I trusted Sandeepa's confidence in the mustard paste and added it to the curry with a prayer. I was not disappointed. Well if something had gone bad it would have all been her fault :). On the other hand if I were trying this recipe before I had heard so much about mustard paste I would have just left it out and it would have been a totally different dish.

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1. 2 long purple Eggplants
2. 6 Purple round eggplants
3. 3/4 of a Medium Sized red Onion sliced thin and cut in two.
4. 6 Green Chillies slit and shake the seeds out
5. 1 1/2 tbsp of grated ginger
6. 6 garlic cloves sliced
7. 1 tbsp mustard seeds
8. 1/4 cup vinegar
9. 2 tsp chilli powder
10. 1 tsp turmeric powder
11. 3/4 tbsp corriander powder
12. 1/2 tbsp cumin powder
13. 1 tsp chicken masala powder
roast 1 tbsp corriander, 1/2 tbsp cumin, 1 tsp fennel seeds roasted and powdered
14. 4 small tomatoes chopped fine
15. 1 tbsp oil
16. 1 stick cinnamon
17. 1/2 Cup tamarind pulp from a lime sized ball of tamarind.
18. 1 tbsp jaggery

Eggplant Prep
1. Slice the eggplants thin, rub with salt and turmeric, let them stand for an hour or so.
2. Squeeze out the water and place them in the sun till ready to be cooked.

Mustard Paste
1. Take the mustard and about 1/2 of the vinegar and blend them to a paste, add the vinegar little by little, too much liquid the mustard just sloshes around.

1. In a wok or a kadai pan heat oil and when smoking hot add the eggplant slices. Saute till they
are comkpletely roasted and there is no sign of any moisture. Remove and set aside.
2. In the same add a bit more oil if needed add onions, green chillies and the cinnamon stick and saute till they are soft
3. Add the garlic and ginger and saute
4. Add the tomatoes and saute till they are soft.
5. Add the powders and mix well.
6. Add the mustard paste and let it cook a little bit
7. Add the tamarind pulp and when it starts to bubble add the eggplants
8. Check for salt and simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes.
9. Almost towards the end add the sugar and simmer till the required texture is reached.
(Friend's dish is dry mine had a little bit of moisture in it)

Mix with rice and savor, the sour tangy taste is simply wonderful and I am now a true mustard paste convert.


  1. Looks almost like meat dish! Yummy and spicy!:))

  2. Indo, this dish sounds great! I can see just from the list of ingredients and the way the eggplant is dried and roasted why you love this dish so much.

  3. You and your eggplant :D and this time my mustard is in there too ;-)
    So mustard paste is used in SriLankan cuisine too ?

    You know the Grinders here does make the mustard paste a tad bitter, there are only few brands that work well and do not lend bitterness to the paste.

    However try making the paste with a little salt & green chillies (in addition to waht the recipe calls for), that does help adjust the bitter taste

  4. I really love the sound of this dish! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Asha, that is true, fish or shrimp, I know you don't eat seafood and even chicken substituition would work deliciously.

    Cynthia, you understand me perfectly, there is nothing in those flavors which can cause discordance.

    Sandeepa, oh yes, eggplants for life :) Yes as I go throw the cookbook, it is used a lot in their cooking too. I have a mixie from India but even then how did I forget your advice?

    Anh, if you are an eggplant and tangy spicy food lover you should give this a try.

  6. i am definitely an eggpland and tangy food lover and i am most definitely trying this. bookmarked!!

  7. Indo, what struck me about your post was how recipes metamorphose from cook to cook despite the ingredients remaining the same, it's fascinating!

  8. Vinegar and chicken masala powder with eggplant... thats a new dish.the look of the dish and method of making it is impressive.

  9. oh my goodness ISG, can I have a little bite please... I'll even move down and grow some more brinjals for you next summer :)

    You've been so busy in the kitchen, and this looks wonderful!

  10. A totally new recipe for cooking eggplant... and thanks for sharing. Never cooked anything with mustard paste...

  11. I'm a eggplant lover and this dish sounds really good to me. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Wow, looks great Indo... You must post some sri lankan non veg dishes too..that is one of my fav cuisines...


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