Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Jihva for COCONUT: Eggplant Rasavangy

After four of the most stressful months of my life (all is well that ends well; I defended my thesis successfully), I'm back to my favorite activity: food blogging! I am all excited with ideas for the new year, and am thinking of making 2007 "year of the vegetables" on One Hot Stove, inspired by Alanna of Veggie Venture, by exploring different Indian styles of cooking veggies. What do you think? What would you like to see on One Hot Stove in the new year?

Meanwhile, I missed out on so many great foodie events during my blogging break, so I was thrilled when Ashwini came up with the excellent theme of COCONUT for the Jihva for Ingredients event orginally conceived by Indira. Much of the Indian landscape (especially the Southern half) is dotted by swaying, graceful coconut palms, and the coconut is entwined with everyday Indian food. How wonderful to celebrate this ingredient!

When I think of coconut, two sublime food experiences come to my mind. One is the tender coconut water that is sold on Indian beaches everywhere. For a small price, you choose a tender green coconut. The coconut-seller uses a mean-looking machete to hack away the top of the coconut, and then you get to enjoy some of the most sublime juice on the planet, sweet and rich coconut water, a real thirst-quencher. The other memory I have is, when I was a teenager in Bombay, most of the ice cream was from companies that sold princess-pink strawberry ice cream and bright green pistachio ice cream. In short, flavors that were only caricatures of the real thing. Then a company called Naturals came along and turned our concept of ice cream on its head. It launched a tender coconut ice cream flavor that simply took my world by storm. Nothing but some cream and sugar, and a lot of tender coconut bits that melted in the mouth. Naturals still has stores all over Bombay, so try some "TC" if you get a chance!

I have already raved about two of my favorite dishes starring coconut: the sweet fudge-y NAARAL WADI and the tangy, soothing beverage SOLKADI. But coconut steals the limelight even when it is used in a supporting role. In fact, this is how I love coconut best, for the way it transforms everyday recipes into something quite special.

So, today I give you: two dals with coconut. I eat dal almost every single day, and the addition of a spicy coconut paste to dal takes it to another level. One recipe is called Moong Dal Ghassi, a dal redolent with garlic, coriander and coconut. The other is a recipe I am blogging today, for Eggplant Rasavangy, a sweet and sour creation, rich with flecks of coconut.

As days go by, I am more and more obsessed with regional cooking, and this recipe is adapted from a cookbook that (in my humble opinion) is just an excellent resource for South Indian vegetarian cooking:
The book is called Dakshin (the word means "South" in several Indian languages), written by Chandra Padmanabhan. I happened to find it while rummaging through a bookstore, looking for an Indian vegetarian cookbook as a small wedding gift for a colleague. In the end, I have bought a copy for myself as well as several copies to give as gifts. The recipes are just a little bit involved, and I usually end up taking a few short-cuts through them. For instance, this recipe called for toor dal to be cooked on the stove-top until tender and not mushy. Me, I used a pressure cooker as I just cannot pass on the saving of time, fuel and effort. So my dal is mushier than the recipe calls for. The result of the recipes has always been spot-on authentic, though. The food photographs in this book are quite stunning. It is not easy to take photographs of 20 different curries (all shades of yellow and brown) but they pull it off with style. So, here it is: a dal with eggplant and coconut.

Eggplant Rasavangy

Adapted from "Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine From South India" by Chandra Padmanabhan

(Serves 4-6, Prep time: 30 minutes plus time for cooking dal)

1 cup toor dal (split yellow peas)
1 tbsp tamarind paste/ lime-sized ball of dried tamarind
1 large eggplant
1 large chopped tomato/ 1/4 cup tomato puree
1 tbsp jaggery/ unrefined cane sugar
salt to taste
1 tbsp oil/ ghee
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
5-6 curry leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp sambar powder
1 tsp oil
1 tbsp coriander seeds
pinch of asafoetida
2 dried red chillies (less or more to taste)
5 tbsp grated fresh or frozen or dried unsweetened coconut
2 tbsp chopped cilantro

1. Do the prep...(1) Cook the toor dal in a pressure cooker or on the stove-top and set aside. (2) If using dried tamarind, soak it in 1/2 cup hot water for 10-20 minutes, then squeeze out all the tamarind pulp and discard the solids. (3) Chop eggplant into small cubes. If using whole tomato, chop tomato into small cubes. (4) Make the masala paste by frying together the ingredients listed under "paste" and then grinding to a fine paste with a little water.
2. Heat oil in a large pot. Temper with cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add the eggplant, tomato, turmeric, sambar powder, tamarind juice, jaggery and salt. Stir well, cover and cook until eggplants are tender.
3. Add the cooked dal and masala paste. At this point, check the consistency of the dal. If you find that it is too thick, add half or one cup water (or more, depending on whether you prefer dal to be thick or soupy). Stir well and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with steamed rice.

Love coconut? Check out the JFI-Coconut Round-up where Ashwini neatly presents over 70 recipes for soups, snacks, curries and desserts, all featuring coconut!


  1. Excellent entry to JFI Nupur. Thanks for participating in JFI. And congratulations on defending your thesis successfully.
    I share your sentiments on Naturals. Its my most important to do when in Bombay. Yes even before vada pav ;-) Though I go nuts over 'sitaphal' than TC!!

  2. i am so glad to see you back.cant wait to see what you have in store for 2007..aatach tuzhya 2 recipes print out kelya aahet usal aani kothimbir vadi...

  3. Congratulations!!! I'm glad you're back to food blogging. The Eggplant Rasavangy looks delicious.

  4. We have that same cookbook! I love it!

  5. Glad you're back on the blog! The year of the vegetable sounds great.

  6. Hi, Glad to see u back in full swing! Congrats on defending your thesis successfully!!
    The vege. looks real nice, my hubby is a huge fan of 'Baingan Raja', will give this a try soon!
    And, ur so right abt Naturals! I like TC, but love Sitaphal.. ~slurp~

  7. Woo Hoo! You're back. Veggies sound great to me. Congrats on making it through the last few months.

  8. she's back!
    you mentioning the coconut fudge brings me happy memories of getting tastes from your food blog (the coconut fudge, for example) while we were both in lab - now alas there is one.

    this recipe looks fantastic though - and something i can totally do with ingredients in my cabinet! :)


  9. Hi Nupur,

    I love tender coconut ice-cream.
    Your Rasavangi looks great.
    Happy New year 2007.

  10. Great to have you back...have a wonderful new year...

  11. Welcome back and what an entry, Nupur! Have her cook book too and tried out a few recipes which turned out great and yes, the food pictures are just awesome. Must try this recipe too. Looks delicious.

    I think its a wonderful idea to have 2007 as the "year of veggies" on One Hot Stove, exploring different Indian styles of cooking vegetables.

    Btw, congratulations!

    May the new year usher in happiness and blessings to you and yours. Happy New Year!!


  12. Hi Ashwini, thanks for hosting! I am excited to see what everyone else makes. Yes, sitaphal is amazing too!

    Thanks, Supriya, I am hoping 2007 will be a really fun year too. I will have more time to blog, I hope :)

    Emmy, thanks :) Glad to be back too!

    You love the cookbook too? Do you have a favorite recipe, Rachel?

    Thanks, Lydia, I hope I can make the veggies work.

    Hi Manasi, anyone who likes eggplant is going to love this! let me know if you try it. Another sitaphal fan eh? :)

    Thanks, Kalyn. I hope to be a big participant in WHB this year :)

    L, don't talk about happy are making me sad :( I miss you so much already, and it has just been a week!

  13. Hi Menu Today, Happy New Year to you and your family too!

    Thanks, Dilip! Wishing you all a wonderful new year too!

    Hi Sailaja, this definitely seems to be a well-loved cookbook and it is easy to see why. Thank you for all the wishes, and wishing you and your family a wonderful year ahead!

  14. I'm so happy to see you're back! Congratulations on the thesis and on your return to food blogging. I think that veggies is an excellent theme, and I love the looks of this eggplant dish. I'm looking forward to seeing what you'll be cooking up in the new year.

  15. Hi Nupur,
    I love your idea of making 2007 "Year of vegetables" - look forward to all the veggie recipes. I've tried many recipes from Dakshin but never this one. Now that you've tried and tested this, I think I will try it. And may I add that EVERY dish I've tried from your blog has been a hit. Have you tried "Sagalay" - that's a favorite eggplant dish of mine from Dakshin.

    Happy new year to you, V and Dale.

  16. Been waiting for you Nupur! The idea of making 2007 a year of veggie is a superb idea. I am waiting for the new year to dawn.BTW that is beautiful kadai with a tasteful dish ! Happy new year

  17. Glad to see you're back to blogging! Your description of coconut water took me back to the time I lived in the Caribbean (Grenada); I had that all the time. They were called "green coconuts" there. Put a straw in and suck up the delicious "juice."

    Happy new year! Looking forward to more of your posts and recipes.

    P.S. I added you to my list of St. Louis blogs, now that you're officially blogging from there.

  18. Nupur, I'm so very happy to see you back over your hot stove again, even if it is in far-away St. Louis! I have that book and I've really enjoyed pouring through it, but haven't made anything from it yet(at least that I recall). I am putting it back at the top of the heap now that it has your seal of approval! I have a question for you... I purchased a bag of the coconut powder a while ago. I can't even remember why now, but I have a ton of it leftover. I don't think I've seen a recipe that calls for it (I probably used it for something I shouldn't have). Anyway, do you ever use it and if so, how?

  19. P.S. - vegetables are a great idea!

  20. Veggies? What a great idea! But you'll need an extra taste tester, right? Yes, I volunteer! It's so nice to have your voice back online ...

  21. Nupur:

    Thanks for the recipe- I tried it out and it turned out great. Congrats on the thesis defense...the Dr. title at the end makes it all worthwhile, doesn't it?

    Keep on blogging.


  22. Hi Susan, thanks for stopping by! I have been reading your blog faithfully even during my break :)

    Faffer: you like "Dakshin" too ?! Hmmm..."sagalay"...I could not find this dish in the book but maybe I just need to look more carefully. Happy New Year to you and your family too!

    Thanks, Lakshmiammal, the kadai is a gift from my mom :) Happy new year to you too!

    Hi Lisa :) Nice to "see" you again. Hope you guys drive down to St. Louis again soon! Thanks for the link...I have to make a "St. Louis region" blog section soon.

    Hi Cathy! It feels good to be back :) Re. coconut powder, well, you basically can use it as a substitute for fresh unsweetened coconut in stews, curries etc. Like in this recipe. You know, this JFI coconut-themed event will yield a whole lot of recipes that you could use your coconut powder for. I'll mail you the link to the round-up when it is done by Ashwini. Oh, and glad you like the idea of veggies. Let me see what I come up with.

    Alanna, you are hired! :) You know I always need willing and able Guinea pigs :)

    Sameera, you tried it already?! :) Thanks for letting me know, and I am glad you liked it.

  23. I love the coconut memory. To me a wonderful dish/ingredient always reminds me of a special time. Thanks for sharing and welcome back.

  24. So glad to see you back! I do have a request for your veggie project:

    Okra, okra, and more okra. I thought I didn't like okra, until I tasted my first Indian okra dish. Since then, I have never met an Indian or Indian-inspired okra dish I didn't like.

    Have I mentioned that I love okra? Oh, and a very Happy New Year, Nupur.

  25. Looks delicious ! I have tried rasavangi from "Samayal" by viji Varadharajan. Slightly diff from this. Will try this version. Rasavang & idlis are my fav combo.

    Wishing peace, health, and happiness in 2007 and always. Happy New year to you and your family !

  26. Hi Nupur,
    Congratulations on successfully defending ur thesis. Welcome back to blogging and eggplant rasavangy sounds and looks delicious.
    Wish you and your family a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.

  27. Hey Nupur,

    Good to have u back... Just wanted to ask you whether you have noticed yr picture of vada pava in wikipedia

    - Suganya

  28. Hi Ruth, thanks for stopping by!

    Lindy, I am a fellow expect lots of okra :) it is just not the easiest veggie to find fresh, so we can both cross our fingers! Happy new year!

    Hi Priya, I own "samayal" too, but like dakshin a little better. Should try some more recipes from the former. Happy new year to you too!

    Thanks for the wishes, Pavani! I am taking my own sweet time settling down into the new kitchen so re-blogging is going slow :)

    Suganya, thanks so much for pointing that out. I mailed wikipedia and they removed the picture. It is so sad when people steal like that :(
    Thanks again for bringing it to my attention!

  29. The recipe looks delicious, will sure give it a try.

    Wish you a very Happy New Year!!

    BTW I am not able to post any comment to the New Years Post. Is something wrong or am I the only one having this problem.


  30. Dear Nupur

    Happy new year, congrats on your PhD and hope to see lots of lovely recipes on your blog this year! :) I'm so pleased you're back. I tell ya, the foodblog world has been a lot less colourful without you!

    I havent seen the photos in Dakshin, but YOUR photo here is absolutely first-class! Lovely!

  31. Hi Nupur,Tried the vangirassa last night... the hubby loved it!!! I don't eat eggpalnt, but the gravy was just too good ! Thanx for sharing!

  32. I tagged u for a meme, chk out my blog and pl do write this meme!

  33. Hi Shitu, Happy new year to you too! The "new year" post does not have a comment form...I just intended it to be a wish for all. Thanks for stopping by!

    Shammi, how nice to see you! :) Thank you for the love! It *is* very nice to be back!

    Thanks for trying it, Manasi, and I am so glad it worked! "Dakshin" mentions that chayote squash (choko) and kohlrabi also make tasty rasavangis, if you want to avoid eggplant and use another veggie.

  34. Hi Nupur - I have the Dakshin cookbook too! When I first bought it I thought it was totally out of my league, not only in terms of ingrediants and "differentness" but all the recipes seem to take such a long time to make. Now that I'm more comfortable with Indian cooking I find it an excellent resource for regional cooking traditions. It's awesome to read your take on this recipe and know that I'm not alone on taking shortcuts!


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