In the Subcontinent, eggplant (known as brinjal in Hindi, begun in Bengali, and bengan in Urdu) is sometimes roasted, then flavored, a technique that perhaps traveled there from Central Asia. The tender mashed flesh has an inviting smoky taste all on its own (even when the eggplant is oven-roasted, not grilled over a fire).
In this condiment from Andhra Pradesh, roasted eggplant is mashed, then briefly stir-fried with soft-cooked onion and spices. At the last minute, a little minced raw shallot is added for freshness and bite. The flavors are rounded and the textures lush; there’s a little cayenne and green-chile heat, and some sweetness from the slow-cooked onion.
Preheat the oven to 450°F, or heat a charcoal or gas grill.
Lightly rub the eggplant all over with oil and prick each one about ten times all over with a fork. If using an oven, place the eggplant on a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan and bake in the center of the oven until the skin is brown and the flesh is softened, about 45 minutes. If using a grill, grill, turning often, until thoroughly softened. Don’t worry if the skin is charred. Set the eggplant aside to cool.
Meanwhile, cut the eggplant in half and scrape the pulp from the skin. Place it in a bowl (discard the skin) and mash well with a fork. Set aside by your stove top.
Add the chiles to the onion mixture and stir-fry for about a minute, then add the eggplant pulp and salt and stir-fry for several minutes more, using your spatula to blend ingredients together. (The turmeric-tinted oil will coat the eggplant and the pan.)
Just before serving, stir in the minced shallots and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Turn out into a bowl and sprinkle on some coriander leaves, if you wish.
Serve hot as a dip for Chapatis or pitas, or as a topping for rice.
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