Thai Eggplants and Chickpeas in Peanut Masala

by on February 22, 2007
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Whenever I’m in New Orleans, there’s one thing I have to do. Is it visit the French Quarter? Eat a vegan Muffaletta? Catch a jazz performance? No, though those are all high on my “love to do” list, the one thing I have to do is visit the Hong Kong Market. It’s a huge Asian supermarket, probably bigger than all the Asian markets in Mississippi combined, and it’s the only place where I can find produce like purple yams, long bok choy, and Thai eggplants. I always bring an empty ice chest just for transporting these delicacies back home.

Thai Eggplants

Since I first tried Thai Eggplants, I’ve been wanting to go back for more. And though this batch wasn’t quite as fresh as the last, I was still happy to get them. I’d hoped to be able to pick up some small purple eggplants and long Japanese ones, but they were all in very bad shape. So I consider myself lucky to have found these at all.

Once I got them home I decided to ignore the fact that they are Thai eggplants and treat them like Indian ones. This recipe is sort of a shortcut version of Bagara Baingan, perhaps my favorite Indian eggplant dish. It’s traditional to roast and grind your own peanuts for Bagara Baingan, but I took the easy way out and used peanut butter. I also didn’t stuff my tiny eggplants with the masala paste; instead, I cut them into quarters and simmered them in the rich peanut-sesame-coconut sauce until they were tender. I threw in a handful of chickpeas just to add a little protein and served it over rice. What can I say? This is one of those times when words fail and I wish computers had “Taste-O-Vision.” If you like Indian food, put this on your “Must Try” list!

Thai Eggplants and Chickpeas in Peanut Masala

Thai Eggplants and Chickpeas in Peanut Masala

(click for printer-friendly version)

Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients; most of them are thrown together into the food processor and ground to a paste. This dish comes together remarkably easily, and if your eggplants are young and tender, it cooks quickly. Note that if you don’t have Thai eggplants, any eggplant will do.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 small tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons ginger paste (or 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli pepper or cayenne (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate (or substitute)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut (dried, fresh, or frozen)
  • 1/2 tablespoon agave nectar or sugar or 1 small, pitted date
  • salt to taste
  • 10-12 small Thai or Indian Eggplants (or use one large eggplant)
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas

Instructions

  1. In a dry, non-stick skillet, toast the coriander, cumin, and sesame seeds until the sesame seeds begin to turn golden, about 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Remove from pan and let cool. Then transfer to a blender or grinder and grind to a paste. (Magic Bullet owners can do this in the small jar with the flat blade.)
  2. Add the onions to the pan and cook until they begin to brown. Transfer to a food processor and add the ground spices and all remaining ingredients except the eggplant and chickpeas. Puree to a smooth paste.
  3. Remove the stems of the eggplants and cut them into quarters. (If you’re using small purple eggplants, you may choose to leave the stem attached and cut a deep cross up through the bottom of each eggplant; if you’re using a regular eggplant, cut it into 1-inch cubes.) Spray the skillet lightly with oil or non-stick spray, add the eggplants, and cook, stirring, until they begin to brown on the outside. Add the spice paste, the chickpeas, and 1/2 cup of water. Stir well and cover. Simmer, adding more water if the sauce seems too thick, until the eggplants are tender. (The time will vary depending on the eggplants you use, but count on at least 15 minutes.) Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro, if desired, and serve over rice.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s) | Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Nutrition Facts

Makes 4 servings. Each serving (without salt) contains: 219 Calories (kcal); 8 g Total Fat; (29% calories from fat); 9 g Protein; 33 g Carbohydrate; 0 mg Cholesterol; 25 mg Sodium; 7 g Fiber. Note: This is a higher-fat recipe.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 SusanV August 1, 2009 at 11:49 am

Here are the comments that were left before the blog was moved to Wordpress:

Tracy said…

That looks delicious! I’ve never seen Thai eggplants, but frequently see the long purple asian eggplants – I’ll try those!

10:59 AM, February 22, 2007
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Linda said…

oh yum! these look so wonderful! i’ve never cooked with thai eggplants before! i absolutely adore your photograph and am glad you have a nice long weekend!!

11:01 AM, February 22, 2007
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Anonymous said…

That looks so good and different! I was wondering, if I use dried, unsweetened coconut, would i need less than 2 T?

Thanks!
Meghan

1:13 PM, February 22, 2007
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SusanV said…

Thanks, Tracy and Linda!

Meghan, that’s what I used–dried, unsweetened coconut, so 2 tbsp. would be right.

1:40 PM, February 22, 2007
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scottishvegan said…

I’ve never seen those little eggplants before. They look really cute! I will have to see if I can find some…

I wish I was clever enough to invent taste-o-vision! I pray that some brainy boffins will sort it out for us soon though! I will definitely be rushing over to your blog on that glorious day!! ;)

5:00 PM, February 22, 2007
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Courtney said…

Susan

Do you know what the sub rate is for ground spices where you call for whole? For the cumin, for example…I don’t have cumin seeds, but would love to try this recipe! How much ground cumin would I use?
Thanks!

5:57 PM, February 22, 2007
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SusanV said…

Courtney, I think you’re safe to substitute ground cumin for seeds 1 to 1 (in other words, go ahead and use a tsp.) But for the coriander, I would use half as much. Then, toast the sesame seeds in the skillet and only add the ground coriander and cumin for the last 10 seconds. Hope you enjoy it!

6:08 PM, February 22, 2007
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Melinda said…

We had this for dinner, subbing a regular eggplant for the Thai and using lemon juice instead of the tamarind paste. We just ate it plain with cilantro, no rice. My husband was not a fan of the eggplant texture but liked the spices. I thought it was lovely.

6:47 PM, February 22, 2007
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Vegan*asm said…

This looks absolutely delicious. All of my favorite things combined into one dish!

I wish I would have known about the asian market when I went to New Orleans. Is there really such a thing as a vegan muffaletta in New Orleans? I just got back from spending a weekend there, and I was a little hard pressed to find vegan food. Although, I did have a great vegetarian gumbo at the Gumbo Shop.

8:29 PM, February 22, 2007
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Mitsuko said…

Eggplant is my favorite vegetable! I really need to get some thai eggplant at the Chinese store!

3:08 AM, February 23, 2007
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Cherie said…

I don’t think i’ve had eggplants with peanut sauce! Thanks so much for this.

9:21 AM, February 23, 2007
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OMM said…

Oh dee-lish! I cannot wait to try this one! Thank you!

3:48 PM, February 23, 2007
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tamara said…

hmm, i am making this tonight. i don’t have the tamarind paste though, but i do have pomegranate molasses which i’ve been wanting to use (i know, not that similar at all, but what the heck). and i can put all my fun spices from india this summer into use again :)

5:40 PM, February 23, 2007
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Anonymous said…

Hi Susan,

I grew up in Hyderabad, India, the home of bagara baingan… Any party or get together would always feature this tasty dish with pulao to go with it… All hyderabadis absolutely love it… And many many times it is made with the green brinjals..Usually, most people just pick the color (purple or green) available in the market… (like you did):)

Btw, these green brinjals/eggplants are also native to many parts of South India…

So, no sweat over treating thai eggplants as Indian :)

Hema

2:48 AM, February 24, 2007
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KathyF said…

What is this Magic Bullet of which you speak?

10:38 AM, February 24, 2007
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SusanV said…

Melinda, I think that’s the fastest someone’s ever made a recipe I posted! I’m glad you liked it and sorry your husband wasn’t a fan of the eggplant.

Vegan*asm, it’s easy to get/make a vegan muffaletta: you just have them hold anything non-vegan! Sometimes this results in a sandwich that it only bread and olive salad, but if the bread is good and the olive salad is too, that’s all I need! (Not fat-free, though, by a long shot!) BTW, there’s a great list of N.O. restaurants, from a vegan standpoint, at http://www.pakupaku.info/.

Tamara, please let me know what you think.

Hema, thank you so much for the information. Someday I would love to trave to India and sample Bagara Baingan there.

KathyF, I guess you’ve missed out on the latest “As Seen on TV” products since you’ve been living in the UK (lucky you!). The Magic Bullet is a small blender with cups that you can blend in and then drink out of. My mother-in-law gave us one for Christmas, and at first I didn’t think I’d use it, but I’ve come to like it for making quick smoothies and blending dressings. It also chops flax seed and nuts easily.

1:35 PM, February 24, 2007
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funwithyourfood said…

thai, indian- meh whatever!! I good curry is a universal thing

hehe

teddy

11:49 PM, February 24, 2007
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Catherine said…

I love these little thai eggplant too! Tasty sounding recipe.

1:32 PM, February 25, 2007
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Vegan*asm said…

Oh wow. Thanks for the link Susan. I will bookmark the page and check a few of those places out next time I go to New Orleans. Hopefully some of them are still around and thriving.

5:03 PM, February 25, 2007
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Anonymous said…

i am so intrigued….what does a vegan muffaletta consist of? i haven’t had one of those sandwiches in years but i remember loving them. and i’ve never seen a vegan version. pray tell….

brandyn

9:36 AM, February 26, 2007
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sher said…

Those pictures are marvelous! I may try to grow some Thai eggplants this summer. They are adorably delicious looking Envy you being so close to New Orleans

2:20 PM, February 27, 2007
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Louise said…

I made this last night– we are newly vegan– and it was delicious! Thank you for putting all of these lovely recipes out there for all of us to enjoy.

6:13 AM, March 08, 2007
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lux perpetua said…

wow, this was soooo delicious! i adore eggplants, but i always just throw them in whatever curry i’m making. this masala was so worth the quality time spent with my blender (i’m such a slow cook!). thank you so much!

11:54 PM, April 24, 2007
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sophia said…

wow this is good! and i don’t even like eggplant normally. i used small indian eggplants and they cooked up sort of creamy and soft but not at all squishy (squishiness being my usual complaint about eggplant). i also doubled the sauce to feed three voracious diners. i can’t wait to eat my leftovers.

11:43 PM, September 21, 2007
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Anonymous said…

This resipes is great. Use coconut cream if you like 50g dissolved in boiling water it also helps with massala paste.

2:04 PM, June 17, 2009
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Reply

2 Colleen July 30, 2010 at 2:56 am

This recipe is amazing! So fresh and tasty. I followed it exactly but used purple eggplants, as I couldn’t find Thai. Will be making this over and over again! Thank you for your delicious recipes. My non vegan friends always love your recipes too.

Reply

3 Jenny August 23, 2010 at 1:22 am

I know this is an old recipe, but I just tried it tonight and it was amazing!! That peanut masala sauce would probably make an old shoe taste good. I had mine over couscous because it was faster than rice. This was also the first time I successfully cooked eggplant. Thanks!

Reply

4 Joseline September 20, 2010 at 1:25 pm

This recipe is AMAZING. My husband loved it, I loved it and everyone that has tasted it has loved it, including my carnivore family.

Reply

5 maryeb January 28, 2011 at 11:33 am

I made this yesterday. Wow, it’s delicious. I’m so glad I have some leftovers to enjoy today too. I used ground spices instead of whole and canned tomatoes instead of fresh.
Thanks for the recipe.

Reply

6 Kate Moore April 6, 2011 at 8:12 pm

OMG! We made this tonight (with regular purple eggplants and lime juice instead of tamarind) and it was mind-blowing. We polished off the entire pan, even though we were so full we could barely move! It’ll be going into our “keepers” file. Thank you SO much for sharing!

Reply

7 SS June 18, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Thank you for the recipe. My family(incl my 5 year old son who is not too fond of eggplant) totally enjoyed the dish.

I am so happy to have found your blog. I will be visiting this place regularly for inspirations.

Reply

8 Katrina October 16, 2011 at 5:49 pm

yeah!!!!! Hong Kong Market is the best! When you are on the Westbank, you should stop at Kim Son for some vegan-y goodness. Or Pho Tau Bay for vegan pho. I always make it a huge excursion to cross the bride, it costs a whole dollar, y’know.

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9 Cheryl October 28, 2011 at 1:59 pm

This is one of my fiancee’s absolute favorites. I make it at least twice a month.

Reply

10 Khadijah January 17, 2012 at 9:01 pm

This recipe is amazing! I used a regular globe eggplant, ground spices, skipped the coconut, and subbed lemon juice/brown sugar for the tamarind extract. With all the subs, it was still amazing. I added about 1/2 tsp garam masala at the end cause I love the flavor it adds to dishes like this.

I am not a vegan but I have been coming to your site for all my meatless recipes because I can count on them to be great. Thanks!

Reply

11 Esther J December 20, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Simply yummy.

This definitely was a nice little dish of holiday decadence (I will be making it beyond the holidays for sure.).

Thanks, Susan! :)

Reply

12 Susan Voisin December 20, 2012 at 8:46 pm

So glad you liked it, Esther. It’s one of my favorites!

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13 Amy February 16, 2013 at 12:01 pm

This looks yummy! I am not familiar with tamarind concentrate. Anything that would be a good substitute?

Reply

14 Susan Voisin February 16, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Sorry! I used to have a link to substitutes, but it disappeared. The most common substitute is lemon juice.

Reply

15 Heather February 16, 2013 at 4:38 pm

This is delicious! I just made it this evening.

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