Kids Corner

Cuisine

Baingan Bhartha: The Transformation of an Eggplant

by LIZ BOMZE

 

 

My love for eggplant started later in life (like, two years ago), but I've been addicted to it ever since.

It's the spongy fruit's transformative quality that impresses me most. When exposed to enough heat over a long enough period of time, even the densest, thickest specimen will collapse into a plush, silky mass that readily soaks up just about any flavor you throw at it: tangy wine vinegar, raisins, and capers (Sicilian caponata); salty fish sauce and sweet basil (braised Taiwanese eggplant); fruity olive oil, tahini, tart lemon juice, and wood smoke (Middle Eastern baba ghanoush).

In fact, it's the essence of live fire cooking that draws me to this specific Punjabi dish: the baingan bhartha at Punjab Palace in Allston (Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.).

I've always maintained that no cuisine caters to a vegetarian diet more capably than Punjabi and Indian food, and this preparation (along with a really good lalla musa dal, a.k.a. braised lentil stew) is a prime example.

Here, it's a three-step process:

An open flame chars the fruit's dense flesh before the chef mashes it with plenty of ginger, garlic, and heady spices. Finally, it takes a turn in the skillet with onions, plump green peas, and barely wilted green chiles. (If you're so inclined, crank up the fire to level three, but keep a burn-cooling lassi within close reach. The heat is no joke.)

The result is smoky, silky, faintly sweet - and best served with a pile of steamed basmati rice and a swatch of garlicky naan. 

 

 

Conversation about this article

1: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 09, 2011, 8:46 AM.

In the pulp of roasted eggplant, we put ginger, garlic, green chili, black pepper, tomato, etc. to make bhartha. This can also be used as a remedy for sleeplessness. Take a tea spoonful of bhartha, mix with a tea-spoon of honey and take it before retiring to bed and you will have a sound sleep. For children, use half the quantity, and do not give to a child under 5 or to an infant.

2: Gurjeet Singh (Birmingham, England), February 10, 2011, 4:35 PM.

No wonder it's called the caviar of vegetarianism!

3: Veronica Sidhu (Scotch Plains, New Jersey, U.S.A.), February 12, 2011, 6:22 AM.

Looking for a Punjabi recipe? Try the one in Menus and Memories From Punjab p. 177. You'll love it!

4: Bill Taylor (Harrison, AR, U.S.A.), February 18, 2011, 7:45 PM.

Do you have any moreegg plant recipes?

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