Stir-fried Aubergines Cooked in a Tamil Nadu Style (Kathirikai Poriyal)

Stir-fried Aubergines Cooked in a Tamil Nadu Style (Kathirikai Poriyal)

Here is another wonderfully delicious southern poriyal. This is a dry stir-fry, so it does not have a sauce. It is eaten with rather flowing dishes, such as Sambar, rice and yoghurt relishes. You can also serve it with flatbreads and a mixture of northern and southern dishes, such as Potatoes with Cumin & Asafoetida, a dal and a simple yoghurt relish. Add Stir-fried Spinach, Andhra Style if you have company.

In India slim green aubergines are often used for this dish, but those are hard to find in the West. Small purple ones or the lighter pinkish Japanese aubergines work very well too.

For how many? Serves 3-4


  • 450 g/1 lb smallish purple aubergines (I used 3 ‘baby’ Italian aubergines, but the long Japanese variety is also fine)
  • 1 tbsp chana dal
  • 1 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 2–5 dried hot red chillies
  • 3 tbsp olive or peanut oil
  • ½ tsp whole brown mustard seeds
  • 7–8 fresh curry leaves, lightly crushed in your hand
  • 1 onion (about 180 g/6 oz), peeled and chopped
  • ¾ tsp salt, or to taste


Cut off the very top of each aubergine. Whatever kind you have, cut them into 2.5 x 2 cm/1 x ¾ inch dice. (I quarter the ‘baby’ Italian ones lengthways, then cut them crossways into 2 cm/ ¾ inch pieces.) Put the cut pieces into a bowl of water until you are ready to start cooking. At that point, drain well and pat dry.

Place a small, cast-iron frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the chana dal, coriander seeds and dried red chillies, stirring and roasting them until they turn a few shades darker. Empty the mixture on to a piece of kitchen paper and set aside. When cool, place in a clean coffee-grinder or spice mill and grind as finely as possible.

Pour the oil into a medium, preferably non-stick frying pan set over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop, a matter of seconds, throw the curry leaves into the frying pan (take care as these will splutter). Quickly follow with the onion. Stir for about 2 minutes, then lower the heat to medium and stir-fry for another 2 minutes.

Now add the aubergine, which you have drained and dried, and stir for a minute. Add the salt and the ground spice mixture. Stir to mix. Sprinkle with about 3 tablespoons of water, stir and cover. Cook 6–7 minutes, stirring now and then. Lift the cover, add another similar sprinkling of water and stir gently. Cover again. Keep doing this – stirring, adding sprinklings of water and covering again – every 6–7 minutes for 20–25 minutes, until the aubergines are tender, turning the heat down if necessary.

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