I simply couldn’t understand the point of adding this bitter, slimy, seed-filled abomination into what was a pretty perfect sambar! I would carefully remove all the eggplant pieces from the sambar, keep them to one side and plead with mom or dad to take them away from me.
As I got older though, I learnt of eggplant dishes made in my friends homes, which actually tasted good: the Punjabi Baingan ka Bharta, the Maharashtrian Vangi Bhaath, the Gujarati Undhiyo and of course the Bengali Begun Bhaja. I still cannot stand eggplant in my sambar, but all these dishes count among my favorites.
Let’s talk about Begun Bhaja. It translates as Fried Eggplant from Bengali. A very simple, yet fabulous dish of eggplant slices, coated with spices and fried.
No pretensions, nothing novel about it, yet a dish that is quite mouth-watering really. Spicy eggplant slices that are slightly crispy on the outside, but melt into deliciousness as soon as you bite into them.
They make a wonderful side dish with plain rice and dal or khichdi. I love to eat them like a snack. Straight off the pan, scalding my tongue every time, because I don’t want them to cool down and lose any of their delicious crunch 😀
Now, the traditional Bengali version uses only turmeric to coat them. I like them spicier, so I also add red chilli powder and ground cumin, plus a little rice flour to coat them and add to the crunch.
The traditional version is also deep-fried in mustard oil. Mine are pan-fried in olive oil. Does not affect the taste at all and the tongue-tingling spices are the perfect foil to the eggplant. If you, like me, can’t stand eggplant, do give this recipe a try. I’m not saying it will change your life, but who knows 😉
Here’s the recipe.
1 big firm Eggplant
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1 teaspoon Cumin powder
1 teaspoon Red Chili powder
1/4 cup Rice flour
Salt to taste
Wash and pat dry the eggplant.
Slice it into 1/2 inch thin roundels
Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl along with all the spices and salt. Mix into a paste.
Apply this paste onto the slices, on both the sides.
Keep them aside for about 5 minutes.
Spread the rice flour on a plate.
Now heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a flat pan, preferably non-stick.
Once the oil is hot, lightly dust the marinated slices with rice flour and then arrange the slices in 1 layer in the hot pan. Do not overlap.
Cook for about 5 minutes on a low-medium flame or until the lower side is brown.
Flip all the slices and fry for another 5 minutes.
Fry the remaining slices in the same way.