Kathrikkai Paal Curry (Eggplant Milk Curry)
A STAPLE dish in many Ceylonese households is the brinjal coconut milk curry (kathrikkai paal curry), eaten with rice or puttu (steamed ground rice and coconut cylinders).
Growing up, I never really liked the dish, not because of how it tasted but how it looked – soft and mushy, with seeds of the vegetable all mixed in. Being powerless on what would go on my dinner plate however, I adjusted as best I could. I’d swallow the vegetable with gulps of water – this really made matters worse as the copious amounts of water filled me up and made me feel queasy even before I was halfway through my meal.
I learnt to put away my prejudices eventually. I noticed how much the dish was savoured by the rest of my family during our family gatherings. The “oooohs and aaahs” and licking of fingers didn’t go unnoticed and I eventually tried it and now, love it too.
The paal curry is such a popular dish that nine out of ten times, you’d find it on the menu at any festivity (regardless of whether the food was home cooked or catered). There are slight variations on how the dish is made, but these mostly revolve around personal preferences – I add turmeric to the brinjal which I am told by my aunt is not authentic to the dish. Also, some cooks add plantains with the brinjal – this apparently is a common combination in Sri Lanka where plantains are easily accessible.
This recipe is a combination of the recipes from my sister and my aunt.
S. Indramalar writes for the Don’t Call Me Chef column in Star2.
- 1tbsp gingerly oil or more
- 4-6 shallotsdiced
- 1/2tsp fenugreek
- 2 green chilliessliced
- 3 round brinjalsskin removed and roughly cut into 2cm cubes
- 1/4tsp turmeric
- 1/4tsp cumin
- 1-2cups water
- 1/4cup coconut milk
- saltto taste
- 1/2tbsp ghee
- 1tsp mustard seeds
- 2 sprigs curry leaves
- 3 dried red chilliesroughly cut