My friend Kem and I visited Sri Lanka and had a wonderful driver named Danan showing us around the country. Before we arrived, we arranged the tour through BH Lanka Tours. They were friendly and helpful, even if not always organised. We had to be adaptable and that was part of the adventure!
One of the stops was in the beautiful town of Ella, nestled between tea plantations. It is famous for its railway bridge as well. While we were there, we took a cooking course to learn to make Sri Lankan food with our chef instructor, Swarna. We were the only two in the class. One of my favourites was the recipe for aubergine curry (AKA eggplant curry). Incredibly, we made about ten different dishes in two hours! Then we sat down to enjoy the meal together. There was so much delicious food!
This recipe for aubergine curry comes directly from Kitchen Garden Ella, which is also a restaurant. Eating this curry definitely reminds me of our travels through Sri Lanka. It is a beautiful and welcoming country, and the landscape is very diverse across the small island country.
Luckily, it was easy to re-create this curry with the authentic taste. In London, most ingredients are easy to find. Jagri, a type of sugar, is not very common and you may not want to buy a whole block for one recipe. However, brown sugar works well to add the bit of sweetness to the curry. Frying the aubergine before making the curry is a key step as that adds a lot of flavour and some crispness. The final dish is not very saucy as it uses just a small amount of thick coconut milk or coconut cream. Therefore, I find it tastes distinctive from Indian curries. Personally, I love the combination of spices with the sweetness of the coconut and brown sugar.
2 small eggplants (aubergines)
green chili to tastle, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Handful of fresh (or dried) curry leaves
pinch of rampe leaves (optional)
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
pinch of red chili flakes
2 black cardamom seeds
1/4 cup thick coconut milk
2 tsp jagri, honey or brown sugar
Oil to deep fry
Cut eggplant in vertical strips about 1/4 -1/2 inch wide and 2 inches long.
Heat oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Deep fry eggplant until golden brown, then remove from oil and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
In a large wok over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp of oil from the sauce pan. Then add all ingredients except for eggplant, jagri and coconut milk. Cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly browned. Add eggplant and coconut milk. Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add jagri and cook until most liquid is gone. Serve hot with rice.
Go to Recipe Map