Traveler’s Eggplant Curry


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


    As a Main Course, 6 As a Side

Appears in

This curry was one of the dishes on offer at a roadside eatery in the mountains of Shan State. It was a real find, with mild heat and a little reddish oil floating on the top, a sign that the dish had simmered long enough. It’s delicious over rice and makes great leftovers. Pair it with a green salad, for a contrast of textures and flavors.

Please do not taste the curry partway through cooking, since the dried anchovies’ taste is dominant until the curry is thoroughly cooked. At that point, the anchovies just give a lovely depth of flavor. Dried shrimp powder makes a good substitute.


  • About 3 tablespoons dried anchovies, or substitute a generous 2 tablespoons Dried Shrimp Powder
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ cup minced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • ½ cup minced or crushed tomato
  • About 1 pound Asian eggplants (3 medium) cut into ¾-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon Red Chile Oil or store-bought


Coarsely chop the dried anchovies (see Note). Place in a small bowl with about ½ cup warm water and set aside to soak.

Place a large heavy saucepan over medium heat and add the peanut oil and turmeric. When the turmeric fizzes, toss in the shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes, until the shallots are well softened. Add the ginger and tomato and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes until the ginger is softened. Add the eggplant and stir and turn it for several minutes to expose all surfaces to the flavored oil.

Drain the anchovies and add them, along with the 1 cup water. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a strong simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add the salt and chile oil to taste; if using dried shrimp powder, add it now. Continue to simmer, half-covered, for another 30 minutes. The oil will rise to the surface of the cooking liquid and the eggplant will be tender and succulent.

Taste for salt and adjust if you wish.

Note: As the dish cooks, the anchovies melt into the eggplant, all but the small silvery heads. If you wish, cut off and discard the heads before chopping the anchovies.