1 medium eggplants (about 1 pound), cut into 2 x 1-inch planks
1 teaspoons ground turmeric, divided
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Vegetable oil, for frying
1-1/2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
5 curry leaves
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tomato, diced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
Cooked basmati rice, for serving
Sprinkle the eggplant planks with 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and the salt. Let the planks rest on a paper towel–lined plate for 15 minutes.
To fry the eggplant, pour vegetable oil to a depth of at least 2 inches into a large stockpot or Dutch oven and clip a candy thermometer to the side, making sure it doesn’t touch the bottom. Heat the oil to 375°F over high heat, then lower the heat to medium to maintain that temperature during frying. While the oil is heating up, line a large plate with paper towels.
Working in batches and using a slotted spoon, place the planks in the oil. Fry until all the sides turn golden, gently stirring, 2 to 3 minutes, and then quickly remove them with the slotted spoon. Place on the towel-lined plate. Set aside.
Heat the fenugreek seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat, just until they become fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove the seeds from the heat and grind in a food processor or spice grinder. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the curry leaves and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, then gently fold in the eggplant planks. Stir in 1/2 cup of water, the tomato paste, black pepper, and ground fenugreek seeds, and continue cooking for 5 minutes more.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar. Serve over rice.