There are some things that you always remember even though they seemed insignificant at the time they happened. This dish is one of them. I have warm memories of my grandmother when I make this dish. I will always remember my grandmother’s loving fastidiousness when she set out to make this curry that she was very rightfully proud of. I still don’t know if I like this dish because it tastes good or because it evokes good memories. I am calling it a toss-up.

Eggplants are culinary sponges that feature in several cuisines. They will willingly pick up any flavor that surrounds them. They are great stir-fried, deep fried, in stews, roasted on hot coals, under the broiler, on the grill. Additionally, you will find them in different shapes and sizes in the supermarket. It is best to pick eggplants that are tender and not huge. Bigger eggplants have a greater chance of being seedy; in other words, not so tasty. Eggplants are commonly called Brinjals in India, and sometimes Aubergines.

Vankaya is the telugu word for eggplant. Vepudu is the telugu word for stir fry. This side dish has its origins in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh which is well known for its deliciously elaborate and feisty food. Here, eggplant is cooked in a caramelized mixture of onions, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, and spices. Whole fenugreek seeds impart a characteristic flavor to this dish so don’t leave them out. You want the eggplant to be cooked but not mushy when the dish is done. This dish is traditionally served as a side with steamed rice or warm rotis and daal. Untraditionally, it will taste great as a spread for some toasted sourdough bread or crackers, or roll it up in a wrap with fried tofu, sriracha, bean sprouts, cilantro and lime juice.

Serves 4

1 lb eggplants, cut into 1" long pieces
2 tbsps vegetable oil
1 tsp whole fenugreek seeds
20 fresh curry leaves
2 cups diced onions
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp red chilli powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
cilantro for garnish

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan on medium heat. Add fenugreek seeds to the oil and when they are lightly browned, put in the onions and curry leaves. Take the time to slowly caramelize this mixture. It necessary, add a few tbsps of water, cover the pan and cook on low heat to soften and caramelize the onions. 

Now add the ginger garlic paste, coriander powder, chilli powder, turmeric powder. Toss to combine and cook gently for a few seconds. Increase heat to medium. Add the cut eggplant into the pan. Mix to coat the onion mixture on the eggplant pieces. Add a 1/4 of a cup of water to the pan and combine. Lower heat again and cook covered, until the eggplant is tender and most of the water is gone.