Monday, 6 August 2012

Wambatu Moju/ Fried Eggplant (Sri Lankan)

No festival in Sri-Lanka is complete without this spicy fried eggplant curry which is commonly known as Wambatu (Eggplant) Moju. It is more like a pickle than a stir-fry or a curry and is served with plain rice and other curries.

I was introduced to this spicy dish at a dinner party at MT, my friend's place, at least 6 years back. Though we all fell in love with this spicy tangy fried pickle-like curry, MT couldn't actually name the dish; but she shared her recipe with us. And every time we visited her, this topped our request menu. I have actually prepared this dish only twice in all these years and now for the third time for my blog. The reason is obvious - the fried eggplant soaks up so much oil that you wouldn't want to have it quite frequently. So I had quite conveniently forgotten this dish until I went to Cinnamon's Sri Lankan Cuisine in Melbourne very recently, where they served Eggplant Moju with Chicken Biryani. And it is from here that I learnt it's original name - Wambatu Moju.

There are quite a few different recipes that use dried anchovies or dried shrimp. Mine is vegetarian with only eggplant and onion. And even when I say that it is not a healthy dish to eat, it can very easily be a part of an Indian menu, be served with rice/ roti and curries or with biryani and so can be prepared for those special occasions at home. You can also try to grill the eggplant instead of frying but the Moju doesn't taste the same.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes + time to fry eggplant

  •  750g lebanese eggplant, semi-circular slices, 5 mm thick
  • 3 cups red onion, sliced
  • 3 - 4 green chilly, finely chopped (adjust to taste)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ginger, juliennes
  • 3 -4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp mustard seeds 
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp kashmiri chilly powder
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp tamarind paste 
  • 6 tbsp warm water
  • 1/2 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp oil + extra for frying
  •  Salt to taste
1. Deep fry eggplant in hot oil, till it is dark brown in colour. Keep aside and drain off excess oil as much as possible.
2. Using a mortar and pestle, grind ginger, garlic and 1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds to make a smooth paste and keep aside. Mix tamarind paste with warm water and keep aside. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a hot pan, splutter 1/2 tsp mustard seeds. Add onion, green chilly and salt and saute' till onion starts to change colour.Add ginger-garlic-mustard paste and saute till ginger and garlic loses its rawness. Add coriander powder, chilly powder and sugar and toss well for a few seconds. Add fried eggplant and tamarind water, mix well and season to taste. Close pan and cook for a few more minutes over low flame. Remove from fire and finish off with vinegar.

Serve hot with rice, roti or biryani. (It tastes better the next day).

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