Bengan Bhartha is an incredible, spicy Indian eggplant puree. Similar to Middle Eastern baba ganoush, it’s traditionally eaten with flat bread. My North Indian pals would never dream of eating this dish with rice, but if you’re not a chapati master yet and want to enjoy it with some Basmati, I’m not going to call the Curry Cops.
You’re wondering if there really is an Indian Food Police Special Task Force? Most certainly, friend! If you’re the cook, it’s likely your mother-in-law, and if you’re a guest you’ll only get translated reports on criminal activities from a younger family member. But chances are you’re bending rules all the time and people are just much too polite to let you know. I know this was the case for me.
I learned how to make Bengan Bhartha properly when living in Amravati, India. Several times a week when I opened my lunch tiffin I was greeted by the smoked aroma of eggplant (aubergine for my Euro-friends). Yes, the smell is usually more appetizing than the appearance. I’d unwrap the cloth containing my whole wheat roti bread, rip off a piece and dig in. Like every Indian dish, every family and every cook has their own unique recipe and results. Mine is a cross between Marathi and Sindhi styles (a theme you’re likely to see repeated). I was invited many, many times for lunch with my beloved Sindhi neighbors, friends, and host family, and I was in the kitchen countless times watching Marathi friends rocking the old-school ways of cooking. That’s where I learned the super-cool method of roasting an eggplant right on the flame!
ps. Next time I make this, I’ll take some photos to help you see how it’s roasted. Maybe I’ll even share the secret trick of putting the garlic cloves directly in the eggplant before roasting.
serves 2 / time 45-60 min+
1 large / 2 medium eggplant(s) (about 350 g)
2 medium / 150 g tomatoes diced
1 medium onion finely chopped
2-4 cloves garlic
1/2 in / 1 cm ginger finely chopped
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin ground
1 tsp coriander seeds ground
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp paprika
1 green chili finely chopped or 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
pinch asafoetida (hing)
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 Tbs oil
2 Tbs water
fresh coriander leaves to garnish
2 lemon wedges (about 1/2 lemon)
- Two ways to roast the eggplant: directly on the gas burner of stove, on a low flame, turning the whole eggplant regularly with tongs until outside is charred and inside is cooked, 10-15 minutes. The second method is to rub whole eggplant with oil and roast in oven at 425F / 220c / level 6-7 for about 45 minutes. For both methods, before roasting, poke eggplant several times with a fork to vent it. The eggplant will become soft and collapse when it’s ready. Allow to cool, discard burnt skin, transfer insides to bowl, mash well with a fork.
- In a large pot heat 2 Tbs oil on medium. Add mustard seeds, after they start to pop (30 seconds) add garlic, onion, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, chili, asafoetida. Fry, stirring constantly, until onions and garlic are brown, about 3-5 min.
- Add cooked eggplant, tomatoes, salt. Cook on medium low heat for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add 2 Tbs water, mix, continue to simmer on low for 5 min. Turn off heat.
- For a creamier bengan bhartha, puree with an immersion blender or in food processor / blender (after somewhat cooled — transfer back to pot and reheat on low).
- Garnish with coriander leaves, serve with lemon wedges and chapati, naan, or rice.
Don’t like garlic and onions? That’s cool– just add another tomato and 1 tsp garam masala. Boom!