Downtown Appleton Farmers Market: Thai Eggplant Curry
Note to self: do not make plans to meet a friend who doesn’t have a cell phone at a non-stationary location. Shoving change into a parking meter, I jogged up a side street and onto College Avenue, hoping I wasn’t late. Now where was that dang Kangaroostaurant? I figured it would be a perfect meeting place. With its colorful presence and adoring fans surrounding, it’s hard to miss.
I looked around, heart sinking. Murphy’s Law danced through my head — anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. The Kangaroostaurant was nowhere to be found.
“Crap,” I muttered under my breath. There was absolutely no way I was going to find him in the teeming masses of people. Instead of accepting this and enjoying myself, I quietly fumed. At myself, at the Kangaroostaurant for being mysteriously absent, at the couple walking at a snail’s pace in front of me. The rational part of my mind told me to chill out and look for some interesting produce, but the overwhelming, irritated side was controlling my hands, and without much thought.
Upon arriving home, I examined my purchase. What the heck had I bought? The man at the stand called them eggplants, but their green skin and small, spherical shape seemed to indicate otherwise. With some further research, I learned they were called Thai or Kermit eggplants. That was all well and good, but what to do with them?
To me, Thai = curry, and though I don’t particularly like eggplants, I adore curry. So I took a trip over to Asian Food Store on Calumet Street and stocked up on ginger, lemongrass, coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves. Combined with chiles and toasted spices, my curry created an intoxicating aroma that filled the house.
But…I still don’t like eggplant. There was nothing wrong with my curry (besides a slight woody flavor I attribute to not preparing my lemongrass properly. Next time I’ll use a guide), but when the main ingredient is something of which I am not fond, it’s kind of hard to overlook. But there’s no harm in trying, right?
Oh, and I’m sorry for getting mad at you, Kangaroostaurant. You are still awesome.
Thai Eggplant Curry
This variety of curry, known as Massaman, is actually Muslim in origin. Make sure you have ALL the ingredients for making your own paste. If you can’t find them, you’re probably better off buying a pre-made paste.
6 Small Thai Eggplant, slit into four with the base near the stem intact
2 Large Potatoes, peeled & cubed
1/2 Onion Sliced
1/2 Cup Coconut Cream ( the top part of the can)
3/4 Cup Coconut Milk
Massaman Curry paste (Recipe Below)
4 Tablespoons of Oil
1 Teaspoon Tamarind Paste (Optional, if you want a sour tinge)
1/4 Cup Roasted Peanuts
1 Tablespoon chopped Scallions for Garnish
For the Paste
3 shallots, sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 thumb-size piece galangal (or ginger), peeled and sliced
1 stalks lemongrass, outer leaves and bulb removed, then sliced thinly (I used Frozen )
3 kaffir lime leaves (I used Frozen)
7-8 red chillies (more or less to taste)
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds,
1 Tbsp. cumin seeds, ground
1/2 tsp. nutmeg, preferably ground from whole nutmeg
1″ Cinnamon Stick
3 Small cloves
2 Small Cardamom
1 teaspoon Tamarind Paste
1 Teaspoon Soy Sauce Lite
1/2 can coconut milk
2 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
Add the whole spices (From ingredients 6 -12) to a dry frying pan and toast for about 3 minutes, or until aromatic. grind it to a fine powder in a coffee grinder. Transfer to a food processor, add all the other ingredients and blend until smooth. The paste stores in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or can be frozen until needed.
Soak the slit Eggplants in salt water for about 1/2 hour. Squeeze out the water & set the eggplants aside.
Coat the pan with oil & turn on to medium high. Saute the Potatoes till the sides start to slightly brown. Remove & set aside.
Coat the pan with oil again. Saute the eggplants for a few minutes. Remove & set aside. Heat the rest of the oil. Fry the sliced onions till transparent. Add about 1/2 cup of the Massaman Curry paste & fry till fragrant about 5-8 minutes at medium heat. Keep stirring so it doesn’t burn. Add potatoes & the eggplant. Toss them around for the paste & the spices to coat, & fry for about a couple of minutes. Add the coconut cream.
Simmer until the oil separates, about 4-6 minutes. You’ll see reddish oil starting to float to the top.
Add the peanuts and the coconut milk. Cover & simmer while occasionally stirring for about 15 minutes or till the potatoes & the eggplants are done. The mixture will slightly brown & a lot of oil will come to the top.
If it gets too dry, add some water. Add the tamarind juice at the end. Serve warm with rice or roti. Garnish with chopped scallions.
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