“So what are you making for dinner tonight?”
“You mean baigan bharta.”
“No begun pora”
“It’s the same thing, baigan ka bharta”
“No, this is not like baigan ka bharta. it is not a liquidy over spice goop. This is delicately spiced, smoked and you will be able to taste the baigan (egg plant). It’s like a baba ganoush. Served warm though”
At the end of dinner:
“You are right. This is not baigan ka bharta. It tastes out of the world”
It had been ages since I made begun pora (literally ‘burnt brinjal’), the Bengali smoked brinjal dish. In fact I doubt if I had made it ever since we moved into our current apartment. I suddenly remembered it the other night when I was editing the note which my mom has written on our years at Iran in the end seventies. There she had mentioned a ‘baigan ka bharta’ like dish while describing the food at Iran. I suspect that she was talking of baba ganoush. The Mediterranean Arabian dish of similar lineage.
Baigan ka bharta is a more Punjabi or North Indian form of the dish. The only place whose baigan ka bharta I have eaten is that from Khaane Khaas at Bandra. Kaianaz likes that quite a bit. I don’t. I find the consistency too liquidy with the seeds of the egg plant sticking out like the scales of a Martian. Plus I find it too spicy. The over powering taste of garam masala kills the dish for me. Aubergines or brinjals, in my world, should be treated delicately. Now, the only problem is that I don’t know whether this is how baigan ka bharta is meant to be. Or whether this is Khaane Khaas’s take on the dish.
Begun pora was a fairly regular dish at our dinner table while I was growing up. You would smoke it on an open flame and then mildly saute it with some spices. We used to eat it with rotis. The authentic Bengali Begun Pora would be seasoned with mustard oil. We didn’t use mustard oil in our house. I don’t like it. Never did. I never took the recipe from my mom. But the begun poras that I havee made do bring back the taste of the begun poras that I grew up on.
Purists might argue that my mustard oil sans begun pora is as ‘authentic’ as an olive oil biriyani but still, here’s the recipe:
- Take a largish aubergine (egg plant, brinjal)
- Slice it in a criss cross manner right up to the stem. This will ensure that the brinjal smokes properly all through.
- Drizzle some oil on the cut surface of the brinjal. I used olive oil. My ancestors would use mustard oil. The point is to ensure that the brinjal doesn’t get all sticky inside
Cook: Stage 1: Smoking up
- Switch on the burner and place the brinjal on the open flame. Kept turning after every 10,20 seconds so that it gets heated evenly. Soon you will hear a hissing sound as the juices of the brinjal hit its hot burning skin and sometimes hit the flame too. A heady smoky aroma will fill the kitchen. Keep turning the brinjal till it cooks evenly and softens inside. The firm white flesh of the vegetable should became near translucent in colour
- Peel the skin. It would have begun to crackle and come off. The surface would be hot. Use a fork or a knife to scrape off the skin. Unless the brinjal cooled down while you took a million photographs the way I did. In which case you can use your fingers to peel of the crackling skin
Cook: Stage 2: Spicing it up
- Heat some oil in a sauce pan and saute about 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onions
- As the onions become transparent, add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped tomatoes
- Once the tomatoes softens add the peeled and smoked brinjal
- Add some mild spices to this – 1 teaspoon each of cumin and coriander powders, half a teaspoon each of salt and red chilly powder. You don’t want the spices to hide the taste of smoked brinjal.
- Add some finely chopped green chillies and then mash the mixture with a ladle.
- The dish should ready in about 4,5 minutes from here
- Top it with coriander and eat it with roti and daal
Try it and let me know if you think that begun pora is baigan ka bharta.
In my opinion begun pora is to baigan ka bharta what the Bengali ‘Mahanayak’ (film hero) Uttam Kumar was to Pubjab Da Puttar and rather macho film hero, Dharmendra.
|Uttam Kumar. Pic credit: http://calcuttaglobalchat.net/calcuttablog/ami-cheye-cheye-dekhi-deya-neya/|
|Dharmendra. Pic credit: http://box4.chakpak.com/photo/dharmendra/2207411?gdata=9566>ype=pp&index=24|