Eggplant is a popular ingredient in the northwest Indian region of Kashmir, where it’s fried with greens, stewed with bitter gourd in yogurt sauce, and dried in winter and cooked with tamarind or dal, among other preparations. This simple but flavorful dish of fried eggplant and onions in a vinegar-spiked tomato sauce is a favorite at the home of Srinagar, Kashmir, houseboat owner Maqsood Ahmad Madarie. This recipe first appeared in the tablet edition of our August/September 2014 special India issue.
- 4 small Indian or Japanese eggplants
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Canola oil, for frying
- 8 large red pearl onions, peeled
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1⁄2 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 3⁄4 cup white vinegar
- 1 tbsp. Kashmiri chile paste or 1 1/2 tbsp. red chile powder, such as cayenne
- 1 tsp. ground fennel
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- 5 canned whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 4 small green Thai chiles or 2 serranos, halved lengthwise, stems left on
- 1 stick cinnamon
- Peel eggplants; quarter eggplants lengthwise, leaving stem ends attached. Toss eggplant and salt in a colander set over a bowl; let drain 1 hour, then pat dry using paper towels.
- Heat 2” oil in a 6-qt. saucepan until a deep-fry thermometer reads 375°. Working in batches, fry eggplant until golden and tender, 1–2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggplant to paper towels to drain. Fry pearl onions until golden and tender, 3–4 minutes; transfer to paper towels to drain.
- Discard all but 1⁄4 cup oil; return to medium-high heat. Cook cumin seeds and sliced onion until onion is golden, 6–8 minutes. Add vinegar, chile paste, fennel, turmeric, tomatoes, chiles, cinnamon, and 3⁄4 cup water; boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook until tomatoes are completely broken down, 18–20 minutes. Add fried eggplant and pearl onions; cook until coated in sauce and warmed through, 2–3 minutes.