For the 3rd and last of the marathon under the theme “Cooking with Onions“, I wanted to make an Indian dish. Onions are quintessential ingredient in Indian cooking, so I wanted to make a dish that utilizes onions in a very traditional way.
Ulli Karam (Ulli=Onion, Karam=Red chili or hot spicy in Telugu) is a great base for a number of dishes. A paste of either raw or cooked onions and red chili powder is used as a spread in dosas, mixed with rice or like did today cooked with a veggie. Eggplant (vankaya), Potato (bangaladumpa), Bittergourd (kakarakaya), Ridgegourd (beerakaya), basically any veggie can be used to make a ulli karam kura. Being an eggplant lover, I decided make my curry with eggplant.
Baby eggplants would be perfect, but I only had the long slender Japanese eggplants in the fridge. So I chopped them into chunks and cooked them in the onion gravy. The final dish was so delicious with the melt in your texture of the eggplant complemented with the slightly sweet, but still spicy, onion gravy.
Vankaya Ulli Karam Kura
To make Ulli Karam (Onion Paste):
- 1 tablespoon Oil
- 2 Medium Red Onions, chopped
- 2 Garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoons Chopped Ginger
- 1½ teaspoons Red chili powder*
- 2 teaspoons Tamarind paste
For the Curry:
- 2 tablespoons Oil
- 1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
- 6~8 Curry leaves
- 3~4 Medium Japanese or Chinese long Eggplants, chopped into 1" pieces
- To taste Salt
- 2 tbsps Cilantro, finely chopped, for garnish
Make Ulli Karam (Onion Paste)
- Heat oil in a large saute pan on medium flame; add chopped onions, ginger and garlic. Cook until onions turn translucent and slightly browned around the edges, about 6-8 minutes.
- Remove into a plate to cool. Once it's slightly cooled, grind into a smooth paste along with salt, red chili powder and tamarind paste.
Make the Curry:
- In the same pan, heat oil to make the curry on medium heat. Add cumin seeds and cook for 30 seconds or until the seeds splutter. Add curry leaves and cook for 30 seconds.
- Next add the eggplants; cover and cook on medium-low flame until almost cooked through, about 8~12 minutes.
- Add the ground onion paste and mix gently with the veggies. Cover and cook until eggplant is completely cooked through, about 3~4 minutes.
- Add some water if the mixture looks dried out. Check the seasonings and adjust accordingly.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot with rice or roti.
- Use 8-10 Indian or Thai style baby eggplants.
- Adjust the quantity of chili powder. Start with 1 teaspoon for a mild curry and add more if you can handle some heat.