I don’t know when I first grew fond of eggplants, but I remember when I learned how to prepare the recipe I’m sharing with you today! On one of our many trips through the South, my husband and I visited Enola Prudhomme’s restaurant in Lafayette, Louisiana. I had crawfish etouffee in a pirogue. Don’t confuse that word with pierogi, a dumpling filled with potatoes or meat. In Cajun land, pirogues are the boats most commonly used. They are similar to a canoe, but lower and flat. Lewis and Clark had French pirogues on their expedition west. One of them was 41 feet long and carried 9 tons of supplies. You can see models of these boats right here. My pirogue at Prudhomme’s restaurant carried crawfish etouffee!
In Southern Illinois, our vegetable growers produce several varieties of eggplant. I love the egg shaped size primarily because one of them is a single serving. Slices from the egg shaped are smaller than what you typically see with eggplant parmesan, but that doesn’t matter. The egg shaped eggplants have origins in several countries. An almost Black Egg eggplant is from Japan. The Yellow Egg eggplant is from Thailand, and one that has a red tint is from India. My favorite is named ‘Ophelia’ and is from western European countries. History tells us that Caesar’s army carried eggplants from place to place and helped start the cultivation. If you are interested in the history of eggplant, take a look at another of my posts about eggplant.
Tostada bowls hit the scene at Los Angeles restaurants in the 1930s. In an effort of eliminating the waste of stale tortillas, they were fried and formed into a bowl shape to hold other ingredients. How popular those bowls are today! They come already made in a few sizes and different shapes.
In South Africa, bunny chow emerged in the 1940s when Indians were brought in to work sugar cane plantations. Bunny chow had nothing to do with rabbits, but was a cube of stale bread, hollowed out like a bowl and used to hold vegetable curry. The workers carried their lunch that way.
American food history tells of pioneers who cooked in whole pumpkins and who used seashells or turtle shells as vessels. We know that gourds were dried and used as bowls, cups and scoops
Home cooks in my favorite vintage period, the 1940s and 50s were quick to dress up their foods with vegetables shaped into boats. I’ve written before about bologna boats filled with creamed peas! Zucchini boats were stuffed with meat combinations similar to the filling of stuffed peppers. To show a little contrast, when I was a kid, a favorite family friend of ours had so many cucumbers from her garden that she carved out boats and let the neighborhood kids race them in big washtubs of water … while at the same time, my aunt was hollowing out cucumber boats to fill with tuna salad for a fancy lunch!
This ‘boat making’ practice has never really died out and the very interesting list of methods and uses is a long one!
My recipe combines the Cajun deep fried pirogue eggplant with the African/Indian curry. It is a delicious combination! This recipe is for 2 servings. It is easily multiplied.
Put the canola oil and curry paste in a heavy skillet and stir the paste into the oil as you heat the oil. Use a paper towel to press the water out of the shrimp. Sprinkle all the other spices over the raw shrimp, then place them and the green onions in the hot oil to simmer away. The shrimp are done when they turn pink. As the shrimp are cooking, gently pour in the evaporated milk and let everything heat and thicken. Stir a few times.
If you can dual task … work on the eggplant boats while the shrimp curry is cooking. Otherwise, hold the shrimp while you prepare the eggplant.
Ingredients for fried eggplant boats:
Begin by seasoning the breadcrumbs with the salt, pepper and garlic powder. Use a couple dashes of each.
Cut the stem off the eggplant. Cut a slice off once side and hollow out the inside, leaving about ½ inch on the sides. (You can discard the flesh from the inside, but I would never! I add it to the Curry sauce. It will cook down in a couple minutes and help the sauce thicken.)
Dip the eggplant boat in the egg wash then in the breadcrumbs. Gently lower into the hot oil and fry them until they float. Make sure you turn and lower the eggplant so the inside fries, too. When the eggplant are done, remove them and set the upside down so oil drains off the inside. Serve the eggplant boats filled with the shrimp curry! Delicious!