Serious Eats: Recipes

Beyond Curry: Dry Masala Stufffed Eggplants

[Photograph: Prasanna Sankhe]

On one of my trips along the west coast of India, I stumbled upon a Saturday Market' in the middle of nowhere, flanked on one side by the pretty Konkan coast and on the other by impossibly lush paddy fields. Here, miles away from the nearest village, was a slew of vibrant greens, loud yellows, crazy purples and every imaginable color the vegetable world could think of, set against a background of brick-red earth.

The produce rested plump and patient on straw mats, manned by farmers and their wives who apparently travel there every fortnight from far-flung villages to sell their harvest.
It was in this vibrant chaos that I discovered how many beautiful versions an eggplant can have.

I counted about six, including an ivory variety that turned the whole notion of eggplant equaling purple on its head. It was like looking at nature's shade card of white to violet.

Each type of eggplant has its own unique character and consequently its own style of preparation. The fuller, dark purple ones are roasted, the longer lavender ones are sliced and fried and the small black ones become tiny morsels bursting with the flavors of stuffed spices. And after seeing the many types that solitary Saturday Market had to offer, the possibilities seem endless.

The Dry Masala Stuffed Eggplant is a simple recipe from North India that brings out the distinct flavor of the vegetable even through the spices that are encased in it.

Each time I eat or cook an eggplant dish, I am reminded of the furrowed, hardy farmer's hands at that market. And which gradation of nature's purple palette I have ticked off for the day.

About the author: Denise Dsilva Sankhe is a writer & creative director by profession. But that's only when she isn't eating her way across India. She recreates this delicious cuisine in her Mumbai home, which she shares with her newly-married husband, who has long since given up his determination to have salads for dinner.

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