Friday, February 13, 2015

Begun Pora - Bengali Roasted Eggplant Salad

Eggplant is a favourite vegetable (or fruit?) among Bengali people who reside in West Bengal in India and Bangladesh. For this salad, the big, purple eggplant works best. The way I pick one is to look for a tight and blemish-free skin. I then weigh an eggplant in each hand and pick the lightest one. Tapping the eggplant with a finger should produce a hollow sound. Eggplants that are huge and heavy are full of seeds which are annoying to eat.

I find it easiest to cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, rub some oil over the surface and cut sides, lay them face down on a greased cookie sheet and bake them at a high temperature for 20-25 minutes. This cooks the core to a soft and silky pulp that should ideally be hand-mixed with the listed ingredients. The more traditional way is to place a flat cast-iron pan (tawa) on the stove and char the eggplant over a low flame, turning it over and around every now and then.

Mustard oil is a must & provides a lovely pungent flavour to this salad. It is readily available in Indian markets outside India. In our household, a dried red chili is held with tongs over an open flame to char all over and then mashed into the salad. This adds an unbeatable smoky flavour. A word of caution - make sure to turn it around, not allowing the chili to burn or catch fire because that will have everyone at home coughing and crying their eyes out! 

1 large eggplant, cut in half lengthwise
1 + 2 Tbsp. mustard oil
1 hot green chili, diced and/or 1 toasted dried red chili, crushed
1 small onion, diced
1 handful cilantro, chopped
salt to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400*F, grease a cookie sheet and wash the eggplant.
  2. Cut eggplant lengthwise, prick skin with a fork & rub with 1 Tbsp. oil.
  3. Place eggplant, cut-side down, on greased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes until peel appears wrinkled and charred.
  5. Remove eggplant halves from oven and set aside to cool.
  6. Scoop flesh away from peel and discard the peel.
  7. Coarsely chop eggplant and hand-mix with remaining ingredients.
Serve with hot, steamed Basmati rice.