Huiy barhi riha, or curried eggplant (Maldives)

The Maldives is a strictly Islamic island nation consisting of 26 atolls located in the Indian Ocean near India and Sri Lanka. It is the smallest Asian country both by population (about 400,000) and by land area and the lowest country on the planet. Sadly, the latter also means it is very vulnerable to some natural catastrophes, and was devastated in the 2004 tsunami, though only about 100 people died.

Sad things aside, the atoll formation looks quite beautiful from space, like jewelry, don’t you think? There are many beautiful things to see from country-level too, which combined with the very warm climate have made the Maldives a popular tourist destination.

The cuisine of Maldives seems somewhat similar to India and Sri Lanka, though being an island nation they mostly rely on seafood, especially tuna. Spices are used heavily, such as garlic, ginger, chili, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, aniseed, fenugreek and curry leaves. Most curries are based on coconut milk.

This recipe caught my attention as interesting, perhaps because it had eight cloves of garlic. In retrospect that might have been too much, even for me! I wasn’t sure what tamarind juice meant, so I used tamarind paste (and less). You can find it (and curry leaves) in Asian stores and perhaps larger supermarkets too.

The recipe was a bit confusing, as it says “cut aubergine length wise into quarters”. I thought it might mean small Asian aubergines, but the picture was of a “normal” large aubergine, so I cut it lengthwise into four wedges (like you would cut a potato into wedges). I now wonder if that really meant into four diagonal sections though, as the aubergine was very difficult to cook and some parts turned out not to be fully cooked. If the eggplant had been fully done and the garlic overload less staggering, the dish would probably have been quite tasty.

Huiy barhi riha

Huiy barhi riha

1.1 lbs/500 g eggplant (aubergine)
1 onion, chopped
8 garlic cloves, crushed or minced (or less)
2 tbsp oil
0.5 inch/1.25 cm fresh ginger
2 curry leaves
2 cardamom pods
1 tbsp chili powder (probably not a good idea to use a very hot one…)
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup/2.4 dl coconut milk
1 tsp sugar
0.25 cup/0.6 dl tamarind juice (or 2 tbsp tamarind paste)
salt to taste

Cut eggplant into quarters (see notes) or better, into smaller slices. Fry in half of the oil until skin turns brown. Set aside. Fry the onion in the rest of the oil until it starts to brown. Add the garlic, ginger, cinnamon and chili. Fry for a minute or two. Add all of the other ingredients (including the fried eggplant) and simmer for a few minutes, until the gravy has thickened.

Serve hot as a main or side dish. Makes four portions.

One Response to “Huiy barhi riha, or curried eggplant (Maldives)”

  1. 1

    Curried eggplant looks so yum! Maldives cuisine seems to have so many spices used in Indian cuisine…

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