Sutta Kathrikkai Gotsu refers to a Tamil-style delicious side dish made using brinjals (also called eggplants). It makes for a lovely accompaniment to many South Indian ‘tiffin’ items like idli, dosa, upma and khara pongal, and can be had with hot rice as well. It would go beautifully with this Kadamba Dosai that my fellow food blogger Kalyani has shared!
While Sutta Kathrikkai Gotsu was always a part of our family breakfasts and lunches, I never really appreciated its taste till I grew up. Once I did, I fell in love with the layers of textures and flavours in this dish. Today, let me share with you all how to make this beautiful heritage dish. It is a simple thing to put together, but tastes absolutely fab!
What is Sutta Kathrikkai Gotsu?
There are a few different ways in which eggplant gotsu is traditionally prepared in Tamilnadu. In this particular recipe, a big purple eggplant is roasted on an open fire to char it and infuse it with a rich smoky flavour. The smoked eggplant is then mashed and cooked in a very flavourful spiced tamarind gravy.
‘Kathrikkai‘ is Tamil for eggplant aka brinjal, while ‘gotsu‘ or ‘gojju‘ roughly translates into a side dish that is usually served with tiffin items. The term ‘sutta‘ refers to fire-roasting. That’s how the name of this dish came about. Also, do check out the Sutta Kathrikkai Thogayal recipe on my blog – a yummy chutney made using fire-roasted eggplant.
Sutta Kathrikkai Gotsu should not be confused with Chidambaram Gotsu, which is also an eggplant-based dish but made in a different manner.
About Meenakshi Ammal, the doyenne of Tamilnadu cooking
I have recreated the recipe by Meenakshi Ammal, the doyenne of Tamilnadu cooking, with a few minor variations.
S. Meenakshi Ammal was nothing short of a hero, a breaker of the proverbial glass ceiling. She was a home-maker who went on to lead an extraordinary life in spite of the curveballs that life threw her way. Married at 19 and widowed at 23, with a little son, she had a tough life shouldering several responsibilities at her in-laws’ place. However, she was an immensely talented cook, and this fact shone through. Guided by her uncle, she went on to write and publish cookbooks to help South Indian brides like herself navigate the kitchen more easily – all this in the 1950s when a woman’s working outside the home was quite unheard of.
Meenakshi Ammal even had to pledge her jewellery to publish her cookbooks, but she persevered. The books became hugely popular, so much so that they began to be considered the Bible of Tamilnadu-style cooking. Newlyweds of that era used to be given a set of these books (initially published in Tamil as Samaithu Paar, later translated into English as Cook & See) to carry to their husband’s place. They continue to be very popular till date, with pride of place in several Tamilian homes, including mine. I own these cookbooks myself (the three volumes of the English translation), and refer to them often. They are definitely treasured possessions!
How to make Sutta Kathrikkai Gotsu
Here is how I make it.
Ingredients (serves 4-6):
1. 1 medium-sized purple eggplant, the kind we use for Baingan Bharta
2. A small lemon-sized ball of tamarind
3. 2 sprigs of curry leaves
4. 2-3 green chillies or as needed
5. 1 tablespoon sesame oil
6. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
7. 2 pinches of asafoetida
8. 2 dry red chillies
9. 2 pinches fenugreek seeds
10. Salt to taste
11. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
11. Red chilli powder to taste
12. 3/4 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste
13. 1 teaspoon rice flour
1. Soak the tamarind in boiling water for 15-20 minutes, for it to become soft. Allow it to cool down enough to handle.
2. Roast the eggplant on the gas till the skin becomes wrinkly. Keep turning it to ensure that it is roasted evenly on all sides. Remove the roasted eggplant onto a plate and allow it to cool down completely.
3. Meanwhile, chop the green chillies roughly. Keep the curry leaves ready.
4. When the tamarind has cooled down enough to handle, extract all the juice from it. Use water as needed to help with the extraction, but do not use too much. The extract should be thick and not too watery.
5. When the eggplant has fully cooled down, remove the skin and discard. Then mash the flesh roughly, using your hands. Keep ready.
6. Now, we will start making the Sutta Kathrikkai Gotsu. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds and allow them to sputter. Then, add in the asafoetida, dry red chillies, curry leaves, fenugreek seeds and chopped green chillies. Let these ingredients stay in for a few seconds.
7. Add the tamarind extract to the pan. Turn the flame down to medium. Cook on medium flame for about 4 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away.
8. Add salt and red chilli powder to taste and the turmeric powder. Mix well. Continue to keep the flame at medium.
9. Add in the jaggery powder. Mix well.
10. Mix the rice flour with 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl, to make a lump-free slurry. Add this slurry slowly to the pan, stirring constantly.
11. Add the eggplant flesh to the pan too. Mix well. If needed, add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water to adjust consistency.
12. Cook everything together on medium flame till the mixture thickens considerably. Switch off gas when it reaches a thick but slightly runny consistency. Your Sutta Kathrikkai Gotsu is ready.
Tips & Tricks
1. This is a completely vegetarian and vegan (plant-based) recipe. If you want to make it gluten-free, simply skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most commercial Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour to a lesser or greater extent and are, therefore, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet.
2. Adjust the amount of tamarind as per personal taste preferences. Make sure the extract is free of seeds, fibres and other impurities.
3. Adjust the amount of water you use, depending upon how thick you want the gotsu to be. Similarly, adjust the amount of green chillies, red chilli powder, jaggery powder and salt as per personal taste preferences.
4. Make sure you roast the eggplant well and evenly, turning it often so all sides are equally exposed to the fire. If the eggplant is not properly roasted, it will affect the taste of the gotsu.
5. I have used a medium-sized purple eggplant here, the kind we use to make Baingan Bharta. If you are using the small, round eggplants, you might have to use 6-7.
6. Sesame oil works best in this Sutta Kathrikkai Gotsu. However, if you don’t have it, you can use any other variety of oil you prefer.
7. Like I mentioned earlier, I have diverted from the original recipe in a few little ways. If you want to stick to the original recipe, please check the picture from the cookbook above.
8. This is a no-onion no-garlic recipe. If you want to, you can use some onion. If so, saute a medium-sized onion after you do the tempering, before adding in the tamarind extract.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!