Smoky Baingan Bharta
Baingan Bharta is a smoky eggplant dish that is traditionally roasted on an open flame and then mashed and cooked with aromatic spices.
It’s a popular North Indian gluten-free and vegan dish and as is unique with Indian food, has regional variations.
For instance, I, (being from the eastern part of India), grew up eating it prepared in a way similar to Baba Ganoush minus the olive oil and tahini. My mom would roast the eggplant in an open flame, cool it, take out the eggplant pulp, then mash it. To this she would add chopped onions, mustard oil, salt, chopped chilies, and coriander leaves. No cooking involved, so amazingly delicious and we would eat it with roti or rice.
The way I’ve cooked it here is the North Indian way that you eat in restaurants throughout the world.
Table of Contents
- What is Baingan Bharta Really?
- Ingredients Needed for Baingan Bharta
- The Journey of Creating Baingan Bharta
- Some Pro Tips
- No Cook Baingan Bharta Dip (alternate recipe)
- Baingan Bharta
What is Baingan Bharta Really?
If you’ve ever dipped your toes into the diversified cuisine of India, you may have stumbled upon a delightful dish known as Baingan Bharta.
Let’s break it down a bit. ‘Baingan’ is the Hindi word for ‘eggplant,’ and ‘Bharta’ refers to any dish made of mashed vegetables spiced to perfection.
The Unassuming Eggplant – or Baingan
Eggplant, the star of this dish, has different names around the globe. Known as ‘aubergine’ in the United Kingdom and ‘brinjal’ in South Africa and Southeast Asia, this vegetable is as versatile as its names! Its thick purple skin hides a smooth, creamy interior that becomes tender and flavorful when cooked.
Ingredients Needed for Baingan Bharta
- Eggplant (aubergine/brinjal): This beautiful purple vegetable acts as the foundation for your dish, providing a smoky and wholesome base.
- Whole red chilies: These fiery little fruits bring the heat, giving the dish its signature spicy kick. Leave it out if you wish although the kick from dried red chilies isn’t too fiery at all!
- Neutral cooking oil: Acting as a medium, a neutral oil helps to sauté and combine the rest of the ingredients, ensuring a smooth texture. I don’t like to use coconut oil for this recipe as the smoky and distinct flavor of baingan bharta gets overtaken by the tropical smell of coconut.
- Onions: With their sweet and sharp flavor, finely chopped onions add a layer of depth, and zest to the dish.
- Ground red chili powder (optional): If the heat from the red chilies wasn’t enough, chili powder offers an extra punch, deepening the dish’s spicy notes.
- Salt: An essential seasoning, and adjust to taste.
- Garlic and ginger: These aromatics add warmth and spiciness, beautifully complementing the eggplant and other spices.
- Tomatoes: Makes baingan bharta deliciously tangy and bright.
- Cilantro: Tossed in at the end, finely cilantro balances the spice with a burst of fragrant, earthy freshness.
The Journey of Creating Baingan Bharta
Let’s see the step-by-step for creating this delicious and unique dish. I love Baingan Bharta as it transforms a very bland vegetable into something so delectable!
Step One: Grilling the Eggplant
Creating Baingan Bharta begins with a trip to the stovetop. Here, eggplant is roasted over direct fire until it’s charred and smells enticingly smoky.
Step Two: Prepping the Eggplant
Once the eggplant is nicely grilled, the charred skin is gently discarded. What’s left is the soft, tender eggplant flesh. This smoky goodness is mashed into a creamy, tantalizing base for what’s to come next.
Step Three: A Symphony of Flavors
Now comes the part where the eggplant joins the party with some vibrant companions – tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic, cumin, and chili pepper. As they cook together, each stirring spoon invokes an intoxicating aroma that leaves you salivating.
Step Four: The Freshness Factor
But, wait! Baingan Bharta isn’t all about spices. It’s the dash of freshness that sets it apart. A generous handful of cilantro is tossed in towards the end, followed by the tangy sizzle of raw onions and crushed green chilies. The finishing touch? A vibrant squeeze of lemon juice that leaves your mouth watering.
Experience: More Than Just a Dish
In the end, Baingan Bharta isn’t just food. It’s a sensual experience, a delightful dance for your tastebuds.
It captures the spirit of Indian hospitality in a single dish. When you cook this delicious dish you’ll savor a piece of India’s rich, flavor-packed culinary heritage.
Some Pro Tips
- Learn to spot a great eggplant! It should be shiny, light and sound hollow when you tap on it. If not you’ll know it’s old and loaded with seeds. Some people are sensitive to eggplant and get a little scratchy especially if the eggplant has many seeds and is not fresh and firm. If you haven’t eaten eggplant before you should do a test with a small amount of the dish.
- Remember eggplants really cook down so after roasting the amount of flesh is not that much- you might need 2-3 eggplants to get a decent amount of eggplant fresh. It expands with the curry base though, so two eggplants should be good for 2 servings.
- You can add peas and bell peppers too to this dish to make it more robust.
No Cook Baingan Bharta Dip (alternate recipe)
I wanted to share a little family recipe with ya. So, my mom used to make this dish called “Begun Pora”, which pretty much translates to ‘burnt eggplant’.
I was born in Bengal, in the eastern part of India, and this is the typical way they enjoy eggplant. The dish is pretty similar to Baba Ganoush. What’s awesome about it is it’s absolutely a no-cook dish. You can partner it up with pita or any flatbread, but if you’re more of a “rice person”, it’s great with that too!
Let’s take a quick few minutes and get into it because it’s SUPER SIMPLE:
- Roast the eggplant and mash it and put it on a plate.
- Add salt according to taste, chopped onions, a dash of mustard oil or olive oil, and green chilies (if desired).
- Toss in some chopped cilantro.
- Mix everything together.
- Enjoy with pita, rice, or even crackers! It’s quick, easy and yummy!