Katharikka Vatha Kuzhambu (Eggplant In A Tamarind Gravy)

This is my third post in a row on kuzhambu. This one, using eggplant, is a classic. As I have had occasion to mention before, vatha kuzhambu are iconic in the cuisines of Thamizhnadu and Palakkad. I suspect that most homes make these preparations at least once a week. Both the regions, and indeed all of South India, use tamarind generously in their cooking. The tangy taste is a very pleasurable experience. While I experiment with all kinds of cuisine, I must have my South Indian kuzhambu at least once a week. Therefore, you will find lots of kuzhambu recipes in this blog. For those of you who like the tangy taste of tamarind, there are several options to choose from. Go ahead and enjoy these wonderful preparations.

Katharikka Vatha Kuzhambu

1 large eggplant, cubed
6-7 shallots
1 tomato, chopped
1 tsp red chili powder
A lemon sized ball of tamarind
1/2 tsp date paste
Salt to taste
For The Masala
1/2 cup grated coconut
2 tsp split black lentils (urad dal, ulutham parupu)
1 tbsp coriander seeds (sabut dhania, kothamalli varai)
1 tsp white poppy seeds (khus khus, kasa kasa)
1 tsp fenugreek seeds (sabut methi, venthiyam)
6 dried red chilis
To Temper
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
3 dried red chilis, broken
A pinch of asafoetida (hing, perunkayam)
1 sprig curry leaves
Soak the tamarind in 1/4 cup warm water for 15 minutes
Extract a thick paste
Set aside
Heat a wok and add all the ingredients for the masala
Roast till it turns light brown
Remove from flame and cool
Transfer to a blender and grind to a coarse paste, using a little water
Set aside
Heat another wok and add the mustard seeds
When they begin to splutter, add the asafoetida, red chilis and curry leaves
Roast for a few seconds
Add the shallots and sprinkle a little water
Cook till the shallots are translucent
Add tomato, eggplant and red chili powder
Sauté on high flame till the tomato becomes mushy
Add the tamarind paste and date paste
Reduce flame to low and cook for about 7 minutes
Add the ground masala and salt
Mix well
Add a cup of water (or more or less, depending upon desired consistency)
Bring to a boil
Cook till all the ingredients are well combined – about 5 minutes
Add more water if the consistency is too thick – and cook for a couple of minutes more
Remove from flame and transfer to a serving bowl
Serve hot with steamed red/brown rice or millet rice

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