Vankaya Vepudu (Eggplant Stir Fry)

The humble eggplant is one of the most versatile vegetables that I know. There are literally hundreds of recipes in each of the different states of India. And there are several varieties of eggplants – long, small-round, large-round, green, white, striped… I reserve specific varieties for different dishes. For example, the Palakkad preparation of eggplant and black-eyed beans taste best with the white variety. The North Indian baingan bhartha tastes best with the large-round eggplants.
I know of several people who do not relish eggplants – and feel really sorry for them. I too used to dislike this vegetable when I was a kid. But it is one of my favourite vegetables now. I cannot imagine a week going by without some form of eggplant preparation.
This recipe from the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh (and Telengana) is really simple to prepare, tastes outstanding and is very versatile (meaning it pairs well with both rice and Indian breads). Do give it a try!

Vankaya Vepudu

250 gms eggplant – long, purple variety (baingan, katharikka)
3 green chilis, slit (adjust according to taste)
1 spring curry leaves (optional)
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
Salt to taste
1 1/2 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (sarson, kadugu)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (sabut jeera, jeeragam)
A pinch of turmeric powder (haldi, manjal podi)
1/2 tsp red chili powder (optional)
1/2 tsp garam masala
3 tbsp peanuts, roasted
Cool the roasted peanuts and crush coarsely in a pestle/mortar
Set aside
Rinse the eggplants and chop them into 1″ pieces
Drop the chopped pieces into a bowl of water to prevent them from discolouring
Set aside
Heat a wok and add mustard and cumin seeds
When they begin to splutter, add green chilis and roast till the chilis become a pale green colour
Add the ginger-garlic paste and continue to roast till aromatic
Add chopped eggplants, turmeric powder and salt
Toss on medium flame for 2-3 minutes
Then cover and cook on low flame till the eggplants are soft, stirring occasionally
Add curry leaves (if using), garam masala and red chili powder (if using)
Stir for 2-3 minutes
Cover and cook on low flame for another 2-3 minutes
Remove from flame and add crushed peanuts
When the dish has cooled, add lime juice
Serve vankaya vepudu with steamed red/brown rice or Indian flat breads

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