Salan is a very popular spicy peanut sauce from Hyderabad, often an accompaniment to biriyani (veg of course) and roti, paratha and parotta. It is a dish that looks complicated from the number of ingredients, but don’t let that deter you. It is actually simple to make once you have organised your spices. Here it is paired in the famous dish with eggplants, Baingan Ka Salan.
The sauce is amazing, the peanuts and coconut cook down into a lovely creamy sauce that compliments the eggplants so well. Who would have thought that eggplants and peanuts would go together so well. And I love the way that it layers flavours with roasted and raw spices, and whole and powdered spices. Delicious!
For this dish, use the smaller type of eggplant – the small, fat, slightly circular ones. I happen to be growing them, but you can also find them at Asian shops if your local Green Grocer does not stock them.
When frying an aubergine be gentle. Ask its permission first, then thank the Lord. ….. Armenian Saying
Baingan Ka Salan | Eggplants in a Creamy Gravy
8 – 10 small round eggplants
2 – 3 dried red chillies
2 Tblspn Indian Sesame Oil (Gingelly Oil)
1.5 tspn coriander seeds
1 tspn cumin seeds
2 Tblspn white sesame seeds
3 Tblspn raw peanuts
2 Tbspn grated coconut (use frozen if you can’t get fresh)
1 tspn black mustard seeds
0.5 tspn fenugreek seeds
6 – 8 curry leaves
4 dried red chillies
0.5 cups shallots or onions, sliced
0.5 tspn turmeric powder
1 tspn garlic-ginger paste
1.5 tspn coriander powder
0.75 tspn cumin powder
1 tspn Indian chilli powder, or to taste
1 tspn tamarind extract or tiny amount of tamarind concentrate
1 tspn jaggery
Wash the eggplants and make two slits in each one from the base, about 3/4 way to the top, leaving the stems intact.
Heat about 2 tspn oil in a kadhai or large pan and roast the split eggplants for a few minutes until the skin chars a little and the eggplants are almost cooked. Add more oil if necessary. When cooked, keep them aside.
In the same pan and over a low heat, roast the peanuts and sesame seeds until a little darker. Remove to a plate.
Add the coconut and toast until golden without letting it burn. Remove to the same plate.
Dry roast the cumin and coriander seeds until slightly darkened and aromatic. Grind to a paste with the coconut, peanuts and sesame seeds, together with a little water and set aside.
Heat 1 Tblspn oil in the pan and add the mustard seeds. Allow them to pop and then add the fenugreek seeds. As they brown, add the red chillies and the onions. Sauté until the onions are transparent.
Now add the curry leaves, turmeric, and the ginger-garlic paste. Stir for some seconds and then add the chilli powder, coriander and cumin powders. Roast for 10 seconds only and then add 2 cups water with the peanut-coconut paste. Mix well and allow to come to a simmer.
Allow to simmer until the sauce is a little thicker, this can take up to 30 mins, then add the tamarind dissolved in 0.25 cup water and the jaggery. Mix well.
Next, add the eggplants, bring back to a simmer and allow to cook for 5 mins or until the eggplants are very soft. Check the consistency of your sauce – add a little water if it needs thinning, or cook a little longer to reduce it if it is too thin.
Season with salt and garnish with chopped mint and green coriander.
recipe notes and alternatives
Omit the coconut and stir a little yoghurt or curd into the sauce at the end of cooking.
Replace the peanuts with cashews.
A Rajasthani version is made with white poppy seeds instead of peanuts. I will post that version soon.
Serve with roti, biryani or rice.