A quick and simple vegetarian recipe, this Burmese Eggplant Curry gets no points in the looks department but full marks in flavour. Best of all it’s full of natural zesty flavour. Ready to meet your new family favourite?
Welcome to our first Burmese Food Week recipe!
As promised we’ll be sharing a brand new Burmese recipe every day this week, and we’re kicking things off with this deceptively delicious Eggplant Curry.
Known throughout Myanmar as Khayan Thee Hnut (but in Su’s household as ‘That Amazing Brown Dish’) this Eggplant Curry will have you coming back for seconds, thirds and fourths (and we can tell you that from personal experience).
The first trick we learned was to slice the eggplant in quarters, starting from the end and working through most of the way to the stalk, but leaving the top intact to hold it all together.
Next, we stuffed the eggplants with a bright and colourful mixture of finely sliced shallots, diced red tomatoes, and Burma’s all-time favourite ingredients of turmeric powder, garlic, roasted peanut powder and dried shrimp powder, and a few other goodies.
One other magical ingredient used in the authentic Eggplant Curry recipe is a natural sweetener known as jaggery, which in Myanmar is sourced from the Toddy Palm tree. You can find it as a syrup or as a crumbly fudgy ball of buttery caramel-y flavour, so good that you can eat it on its own. If you can’t find jaggery in an Asian grocery store it can be easily substituted with responsibly sourced palm sugar or brown sugar.
A drizzle of sunflower oil and a few cups of water, then it was ready, set, simmer!
As I madly scribbled recipe notes during class, I looked over and saw Sarah and Su with their heads down near the pan. What on earth? Turns out you don’t need a crystal ball to know when the dish is ready – just listen! You’ll hear the difference as the boiling bubbling liquid evaporates into sizzling steaming deliciousness.
All that remained was to try really really hard not to lift the lid until it had finished simmering away into melty soft heaven.
No need to stress about over-cooking; Su told us that Khayan Thee Hnut means ‘stick to the pan’ in Burmese, and the more it sticks the better the flavour gets. One bite and the secret formula was clear: tender shallots + sweet jaggery syrup + simmering heat = caramelised eggplant goodness.
Best served with freshly steamed white rice to soak up all that juicy savoury-sweet flavour.
Burmese Eggplant Curry
- 4 small eggplants
- 3-4 shallots finely chopped
- 3 medium tomatoes diced and seeds removed
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 3 tsp fish sauce
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tsp chilli powder
- 1 tbsp dried shrimp powder
- 2 heaped tsp roasted crushed peanuts
- 2 tsp Burmese jaggery syrup substitutes: palm sugar or brown sugar
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1-2 cups cold water
Wash and dry the eggplants. Slice down the centre of each eggplant from bottom to top, leaving the top section intact. The eggplant should look like it does in the image above. Allow to soak in water.
Place the shallots, tomatoes, garlic, crushed peanuts, fish sauce, jaggery or sugar and spices to a mixing bowl and stir until all the sauces and flavours have mixed through completely.
Remove the eggplants from the water and stuff with the shallot/tomato mixture. Place in a large wok or frypan and cover with any remaining mixture.
Drizzle with sunflower oil and water, then cover and place over a medium low heat. Avoid lifting the lid while cooking.
Cook for approximately 30 mins until the eggplants are soft and the liquid has mostly evaporated. You’ll be able to hear when the eggplants are close to done, as the sound will change from boiling to sizzling.
Remove the lid and continue to cook until the eggplants are tender and brown and the mixture starts to stick to the wok/frypan.
Serve hot with steamed white rice.