Eggplant in a spicy coconut gravy recipe

Posted on January 9, 2012


You could be easily mistaken into thinking that I’m one of those bloggers who love to eat out, but shies away from the kitchen. I haven’t exactly posted up many recipes, and those I did post were all sweets anyway. In my defense, I do love to cook, I just find it so hard to blog about my antics in the kitchen. Because I don’t really think about taking photos of my my kitchen escapades or the end result, and nowadays who blogs about food/recipes without photographic evidence? Plus I always tweak recipes as I go along, so I’m never 100% sure how much of each thing I may have used. So my resolution for 2012 will be to make a more conscious effort to photograph my cooking and be more attentive to the quantities of each ingredient I add in a bid to blog about my misadventures in the kitchen.

This recipe is actually an experiment of sorts. The inspiration for this dish comes from Warung Agus and I’m trying to replicate their tuung mebasa santen lalah manis which is eggplant and tofu in a sweet and slightly spicy gravy (as per my pledge on a fellow food blogger’s site). Firstly I did try to find a recipe online but to no avail, and this is where the experimentation comes in. I found a recipe for a Indonesian Asparagus in coconut gravy and tweaked it a bit hoping to achieve the elusive eggplant tofu dish. I added palm sugar because I’m convinced I tasted it in Warung Agus’ dish and dark soy was used to darken my gravy in an attempt to achieve the brown sheen of their gravy.

I used quite a lot of eggplant in this recipe, nearly double the vegetable content suggested by the original recipe I was playing around with. It sounds like a lot of veggies, but they do cook down. I prefer more meat/vegetable to gravy content anyway, but if you rather have more gravy then by all means reduce the amount of eggplant. I only used eggplant as I didn’t have tofu in the house (so yes, it already isn’t a genuine Warung Agus replica). You can always substitute half the eggplant for tofu. String beans is also another potentially good vegetable to throw in the mix.

RECIPE – Eggplant in a spicy coconut gravy (serves 6 with rice)


  • 2 medium eggplants cut into bite sized pieces of roughly 2cm cubes (~900g total)
  • 400mL coconut milk
  • 100mL water
  • 1 tablesoop tamarind juice
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon palm sugar
  • 2 tablespoons oil

Spice paste:

  • ~2.5cm piece of fresh galangal sliced
  • ~2.5cm piece of fresh ginger sliced
  • ~1cm piece of fresh tumeric sliced (or 1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric)
  • 2-3 bird’s eye chillies sliced (more if you can handle the heat)
  • 3-4 shallots sliced
  • 2 gloves of garlic sliced


  1. In a mortar and pestle pound the ingredients of the spice paste into a smooth mixture. Or blitz in a food processor if you don’t feel like giving your arms a workout.
  2. Heat up 1.5 tablespoon of oil in a wok or pan on high heat, add in eggplant and toss around until translucent and cooked through. It will take around 10 minutes for the eggplant to cook through and become silky (longer if your eggplant pieces are larger). Once silky, remove eggplant from wok and reserve.
  3. Heat up remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil and add in the spice paste on medium heat. Fry for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.
  4. Add coconut milk, water, tamarind juice, dark soy, salt and palm sugar. Bring to the boil.
  5. Add eggplant and simmer for ~15 minutes. (If you wanted to add in tofu or string beans, you should add them during this stage of the cooking process when you have about 5 minutes left to go.)
  6. Serve with steamed rice.

The result? While I can’t really recall the taste of Warung Agus’ dish with much accuracy anymore, I can’t say that this would fit the bill. It’s not even the same colour! You could say I had an epic fail. In some ways it was, but having said that, this was still quite a tasty dish in its own right. The gravy was mild but you could still taste all the individual elements that made up the spice paste. The eggplant was silky and had absorbed the spicy flavours nicely. There are minor things I would change though, I found it a little rich so in future I would reduce the coconut to about 300mL and use 200mL water. I would up the palm sugar and potentially use kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) instead of dark soy. But overall I’m pretty pleased with the outcome of this experiment, and as was my guinea pig! And what is it they say? Failure is the mother of all successes! Happy munching.