Mirza Ghasemi is an incredibly delicious, remarkably simple, classic Persian eggplant dish. This recipe is totally vegan, though traditionally Mirza Ghasemi is usually made with eggs. (See Variations below)
I was taught this amazing recipe while living with a wonderful family in a small village in Iran, intensively studying Persian vegetarian cooking for 4 weeks and learning Farsi for Foreigners. Twice a day we cooked and feasted on traditional dishes. We snacked on exotic fresh and dried fruits throughout the slow, enjoyable days. Enchanting traditional folk music drifted now and then in the air. The sun set into the intense jagged lines of the mountains each evening.
Okay. That last paragraph was pure fiction. Forgive me. It’d sure be great if that was the true story of how I learned to make Mirza Ghasemi. One day I do hope to visit Iran and live off eggplants and pomegranates. But for now, the politics and my particular passport aren’t promising a Persian adventure anytime soon. In actuality, I discovered this dish not in small town Iran, but in downtown Stuttgart, Germany:
I was visiting some friends recently on a long weekend trip to the south. On our search for a unique and tasty lunch, we happened upon a small-street Persian restaurant, remarkably called, Persian Restaurant. (Ja, ja — literal and obvious naming conventions in Germany.) This eggplant dish jumped out at me from the vegetarian section of the menu. I asked the waitress to describe it, which she did. I anxiously placed my order and continued sipping my black tea in hungry, curious anticipation.
The meal was fantastic. Aubergine-arama, piles of pita bread, heaps of parsley, saffron rice, and that delicious tea! So, I didn’t learn any Farsi, but I did ask the waitress — and then the cook (her mother) — for details on the recipe. Standing on the brink of the kitchen, my first thought was She must be leaving out the secret spices to guard the family recipe! But no, she insisted that the dish is only seasoned with turmeric, salt, and pepper. It wasn’t until yesterday that I discovered she was telling the truth.
Mirza Ghasemi reminds me very much of North Indian Bengan Bhartha; just with fewer spices and more tomato. Look at a world map and you’ll understand it’s no geographical coincidence that the two cultures would share similar dishes!
Mirza Ghasemi – Persian Eggplant
Serves 2 / Time 65 min
- 1 medium large / 300 g eggplant
- 2 medium / 1 cup / 130 g tomatoes chopped
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1/2 tspn black pepper ground
- 1/2 tspn red chili flakes OPTIONAL
- 3/4 tspn turmeric
- 3/4 tspn salt
- 3 Tbs oil
- 1/4 cup water
- fresh parsley or mint leaves for garnish
- Preheat oven to 425°F / 220°C / level 7.
- Poke several holes in whole eggplant with a fork, coat lightly with oil, roast in oven about 35-45 min. Eggplant will become soft and collapse when done. Allow to cool, peel, discard burnt skin, transfer insides to bowl, chop, mash well.
- In a large pot heat oil on medium. Add garlic, pepper, chili. Fry 2-3 min, stirring constantly.
- Add mashed eggplant, turmeric. Fry, stirring regularly, about 5 min.
- Add chopped tomato, continue to mix, fry until well-cooked, 7-10 min. Add water as needed for desired consistency.
- Add salt, reduce to low heat. Cook partially covered, stirring occasionally, 5 min.
- Garnish with fresh parsley or mint. Serve with soy yogurt, and rice or flat bread.
Eggless egg twist: Mirza Ghasemi is often made with eggs. Keep things vegan and retain the classic taste by adding 4 oz / 115 g crumbled tofu, 1/4 tspn black salt (kala namak from an Asian/Indian spice shop) to roasted eggplant before frying. Vedic style: replace the garlic with 1/4 tspn asafoetida (hing), 1/2 tspn mustard seeds, 1/2 tspn ground coriander, 1/2 tspn ground cumin. Congratulations, you’ve crossed the border and now have Bengan Bhartha!