The Main Course

Bengal’s culture of fish has been determined in large part by its geography.  Most of Bengal is a fertile alluvial plain, giving rise to rivers and wetlands that are partial to growing rice and prone to flooding.   Kolkata sits at the mouth of the Hooghli River—which is a tributary of the Ganges—where it meanders through its delta into the Bay of Bengal.   The land is often inundated by water, but the fish are abundant.

For most Bengalis, the fish course signifies the mainstay of a meal: without it, a meal is not quite complete.  Eating fish, choosing fish, preparing fish . . . in short, knowing fish might be essential to a Bengali’s food identity and such was the case with both sides of my extended family in India.  My parents carried this longing for their Bengali fish curries to America, and so it was that they became preoccupied with fish. 

The lack of freshly caught fish in American grocery stores meant that we traveled for fish, going to the fishmongers and ports in New Jersey and New York when home was on the East Coast.  When we moved to the Midwest, my father seemed a little despondent.  Fish was not popular in the suburbs of Chicago in the late 1970s.  And so we went in search of fish, which we eventually found near downtown Chicago, on Fulton Street.  Once a year, the shad fish, also known as hilsa or ilish (Bengali: ইলিশ Ilish), came into season for a few short weeks and my father splurged on this fish with a certain abandon.  It was then left to my mother to prepare the ilish, which needed a proper sauce, and only the shorshe, or mustard, would do.  

For everyone who has noted (correctly, I might add) that a compendium of Bengali recipes cannot be considered substantive without recipes for fish, here is my first one.

Salmon in Mustard Sauce or Sorshe Macher Jhol

Mustard is the classic sauce preparation for shad or hilsa fish, which is not widely available in the States.  These days, my fish of choice for mustard sauce is salmon.  Other good alternatives include grouper, mahi-mahi, and red snapper.  The following recipe is easy to make, but the finished product is not for the timid. The flavors here are sharp and powerful, and best complemented by fish with an assertive flavor.  Traditionally, the fish is cut into steaks and the skin is left on the fish, but I’ve used boneless, skinless fillets.  Use the freshest fish you can find.

Ingredients

 1 ½ pounds Atlantic Salmon fillets

 ¼ cup of dry, dark brown mustard seeds

2 tablespoons yogurt

2-4 green chili peppers

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ medium tomato: skinned, seeded and pureed, or 1 tsp tomato paste

Water

Salt

Lemon (optional)

Mustard oil if you can find it, unflavored oil such as canola if you cannot.

1. Seasoning the Fish

Cut salmon into 3 x3 fillets, sprinkle with salt and ½ teaspoon turmeric. Mix thoroughly to coat and set aside.

2. Making Basic Mustard Sauce or Shorshe Bata

Soak the dry mustard seeds in a little bit of water to soften. Use just enough water to cover and soak for approximately 15-30 minutes. Transfer to a blender, add yogurt and blend until the mustard forms a smooth, only slightly grainy paste (a mini-blender works well here, with the speed set to “high”). The yogurt helps to emulsify the mixture, and its acid helps to brighten and round out the pungent sharpness of the mustard. Some people like to add chili peppers and a touch of salt at this stage to season the mustard. Scrape down the sides when blending, and, if needed, add water very gradually until the mixture is the consistency of runny cake batter. It will keep, covered, in the refrigerator, for 3 to 4 days.

3. Making the Dish.

Fish curries are made quickly, to ensure the fish does not dry out while cooking. Add several tablespoons of oil to a large skillet with the heat on medium high. When the oil is heated through, add fresh green chilies if you like, and then the fish. Sear each side working quickly. Once the fish has been seared, lower heat to medium, add the mustard mixture and tomato. Stir to incorporate. Taste for salt and acid, adding a squirt of lemon if needed. This dish should not be sour— only sharp—and acid enhances the pungency of mustard and helps also to blunt any bitter aftertaste. Add a scant amount of water if needed. Lower heat, cover and simmer sauce along with fish for another 5-7 minutes, or until fish is done and sauce has thickened slightly. Serve with rice.

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Spring Chickens

It’s time.  Yesterday I went to the garden center and bought pink dahlias, purple daisies, and some fancy dirt.  Also floppy petunias, striated coleus and the start of a little herb garden.  I am a city gardener, a small timer who dwells on the third floor and has access to a back deck overlooking a parking lot.  Our gardening is done in containers and consists mostly of flowers.  It is mostly tame and decorative.  Mostly.  Periodically, I channel my father and one year I conjured (I say conjured because it seemed implausible that such a thing could actually grow) a tomato plant that might have auditioned for the lead in The Little Shop of Horrors.  But this post is not about vegetables that might compete at a state fair, no. 

My forays into flower gardening suggest that soon we shall have weeks full of warm breezes and summer picnics, girlfriends who will visit, and brunch on the back deck.  We will eat things that crunch, which will be accompanied by sweet drinks with lots of ice.  In honor of lunching outdoors once more, I am making a green apple chicken salad with dried cranberries and fresh parsley.  Here are the flavors of summer Sunday brunch, picnics and lunch with my friends. 

Green Apple Chicken Salad

Ingredients

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 4 cups cooked and diced into half-inch cubes)

1 ½ cups diced celery

1 ½ cups peeled and diced Granny Smith or your favorite apple

½ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup mayonnaise

½  cup sour cream

¼ cup plain yogurt

A dollop of Dijon mustard if you like

½ tsp dried tarragon, also optional

Handful of minced parsley

Salt-pepper-sugar to taste

The Chicken

Oven roast bone-in chicken breasts until tender and then shred, or poach chicken breasts in aromatic liquids of choice.  I use a combination of chicken broth and white wine, some sliced onion, celery, and rosemary.  Use enough to cover the chicken and simmer in the poaching liquid for about 20 minutes.  Remove chicken from heat and cool.  Dice into cubes or shred.

The Finish

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mix with a rubber spatula and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.  This chicken salad tastes better if it has a few hours to sit while all the flavors commingle.

Posted in Chicken, Poultry, Salads | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Anticipation

Spring has arrived.  We are apparently saving daylight, (saving it from what, I am tempted to ask) and finally, we are past the threat of snow.  The boxwood in our front yard have begun to release their pungent, sandy smell, the daffodils have broken through the cold soil, and the tulips want to test their own strength.  But this has been a stormy, windy, and cold spring, and the seasons have yet to be reconciled.   A warm spring seems but a ways away.         

A Way Away

                 By A.R. Ammons, Sumerian Vistas

Some spring thunderstorms, blunderingly

following on thaws, are so breezy

they get an old leaf

up that falling into updrafts

 

can’t get down:

the wind will, leaping

 

out of held moil, lift

the leaf higher than did any

 

tree

and the leaf in the chancy

 

currents will wobble

like a butterfly

 

and gravity will seem to lose

trace of it, and it will

 

angle up till wandering off you

forget to notice if it ever lands.

In anticipation of spring’s warmth but with a nod to its vicissitudes, I am making mushur dal with baby spinach.  Souplike, comforting and sprinkled with the bright green leaf that is almost here.

Red Lentil Soup with Baby Spinach or

Mushur Dal with Palong Shak

  1. Make mushur dal with nigella seeds.  If needed, see Humble Beginnings for specifics on how to make a simple mushur dal.
  2.  Add handfuls of fresh baby spinach.  Simmer for a few minutes until spinach is wilted.
  3. Serve with rice.     

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Make It Fast

Make it now.  Make it taste good.  And make it nutritious too.  These are the demands of busy families.   The timeline of cooking shifts when children are present, especially the littlest ones who demand our constant attention.   Long hours spent in the deliberation and preparation of food suddenly give way to “what can I make in less than half an hour?”  Such has been our lives recently, and in honor of my own little sprout, I’m writing about the Brussels sprout, a diminutive little cabbage that revels in big flavors. 

I developed this dish some years ago by throwing together a few ingredients and over the years, it has become a family standard.  It is a quick vegetable side dish, requiring relatively little effort and only a few ingredients.  

Brussels Sprouts in Peanut Sauce

Ingredients

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1-2 tablespoons canola oil 

1 lb Brussels sprouts.  Pick the smaller ones; they should be bright green and firm to the touch, not soft or mushy.  Wash and trim the ends.

Approximately 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari.  A note about soy sauce:  The sodium content tends to vary depending on brand.  I generally use tamari, which has a different sodium content than soy. 

1 tablespoon good quality peanut butter

¼ tsp dried chili flakes

½ tsp sugar

Salt to taste only if needed

Heat oil in sauté pan.  Add Brussels sprouts and tamari.  Sauté, covered, for 5 minutes, until sprouts are tender.  Add peanut butter, a tablespoon or two of water if needed, chili flakes, sugar and salt to taste.  Stir well to incorporate and cook until the sprouts are tender, a total of 10 minutes. 

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The Doctor Is In

We had a touch of snow in Chicago about two weeks ago.  A light dusting of 20 inches or so, officially.  In some places, the snow drifts were a wee bit deeper, around three or four feet.   Even the most resolute of Chicagoans preferred staying home while the storm raged outside.  For a day or two after the storm, igloo-shaped mounds camouflaged cars, school was cancelled, and roads were impassable.  When it was over, we stepped outside and marveled at the silence brought about by the deep heaviness of snow and in the implausible swaths of white that blanketed entire neighborhoods.

Snowstorms and their aftermath call for comforting meals, a kind of cozy sustenance to replenish those who have been shoveling in the cold and wet.  For us, that meal is often spaghetti with a meat ragout sauce, not quite as complicated as a Bolognese because I take a big shortcut.  I use a good quality pasta sauce from a jar and doctor it, which cuts cooking time down from three hours to half an hour.   This recipe lists dried herbs, which are easier to find during winter in Chicago, but fresh herbs may be substituted.  It’s simple and surprisingly delicious.  

Spaghetti in a Tomato, Sausage, and Mushroom Ragout/Ragù

Ingredients:

1 pound spicy Italian sausage, either pork or chicken, depending on preference

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup diced onion

8 oz fresh mushrooms, chopped

1 25-oz jar of pasta sauce (I use an organic basil marinara)

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

¼ cup red wine

½ -1 tsp sugar for balance

¼ tsp of dried chili flakes (optional)

Olive oil for sautéing

Your choice of pasta.  We use spaghetti.

 

Add several tablespoons olive oil to a three or four quart saucepan, and sauté onions until translucent.  Add garlic and sausage, making sure to break up the sausage until no large clumps remain.  When the sausage has browned, add mushrooms, basil, oregano, and scant amount of salt if needed.  Once mushrooms have cooked, add pasta sauce and wine.  Adjust salt and sugar if needed, chili flakes if desired, and allow mixture to simmer for 20 minutes.   Done.  This meat sauce will easily serve 4 hungry adults and may allow for leftovers.     

While the mixture simmers,  boil water in a separate pan.  Add spaghetti and cook according to package directions.  Drain pasta and toss with a little olive oil to keep from sticking.  Heap on plate.  Serve with generous shavings of parmesan cheese and make a salad to help assuage any guilt that might emerge after eating too much.  Feel warm and snug, like toes in thick socks.  Just what the doctor ordered.

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Inner Circle

The more sophisticated the dish, the more it hogs the spotlight.   It’s unavoidable.  Guests coo and admire: “You must have spent so much time making this!”  We bask in their admiration, glowing because the dish was in fact an effort: many steps, much time, and perhaps some anxiety.  A commitment.  But if the dish succeeds, we are remembered as the ones who pulled it off.  

And then there are the other, less sophisticated relations, a little more subdued, grounded even.  They’re our favorites, our back pocket babies, the ones that are not quite as intricate, and because of their ease, they are more popular with us insiders.  No one has to know that the  planning or prep time was cut in half.  

Today’s post is about the Bengali tikkia, which is not to be confused with the non-Bengali “tikka” (as in Chicken Tikka Masala).  Tikkia, also called “tikki” in North Indian languages, is usually made with potatoes, a kind of potato croquette.  It may be thought of as the less elaborate cousin of the chop.  At some point during my childhood, my mother introduced us to tikkia made with ground turkey, and it quickly became a favorite.  Tikkia require half as much time to make as chop and have now become part of our inner circle.  As a Bengali appetizer, tikkia are often served before dinner parties or as a tea-time snack.   They are pan-fried and need little oil.   A breadcrumb coating is optional but provides an extremely satisfying crunch, delivering on the promise of deep fried decadence but without the hassle.

Turkey Tikkia

1 lb ground turkey, equal parts white and dark meat.  Ground white-meat chicken may be substituted.

½ cup finely diced onion

¼ cup finely diced green or red bell pepper

1 large potato, boiled and mashed

¼ cup bread crumbs for the tikkia mixture, another ½ cup for the outside coating

2 teaspoons grated ginger

1 egg

¼ cup freshly chopped cilantro

2 diced green chilies, optional

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Salt to taste

Unflavored oil for sautéing

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, reserving ½ cup of the breadcrumbs for the outside coating.  Mix all ingredients together very thoroughly using hands.  Shape tikkia mixture into small patties, about 2 inches in diameter, using oil to coat hands and keep meat mixture from sticking.

Spread the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish and coat tikkias.  Heat several tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and cook until golden brown on each side, about 12-15 minutes per tikkia.

Keep it simple.  Serve with hot and sweet sauce from the bottle.

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The Perfect Couple

I occasionally disobey one of the cardinal rules of entertaining and try my hand at a dish that I’ve never quite made before.  It’s heresy, I know, and I’m either setting myself or my guests up for an experience we will never forget.  And not necessarily in a good way, either.  I admit there have been occasional failures: dishes that were scuttled at the last minute or a steaming platter of mediocrity that was served even though no one really cared to eat it.  This time, I interfered with the perfect couple.    

During the holidays,  I made a vegetable dish that I’d sort of made before.  I have paired cauliflower with cardamom numerous times; the assertive, sharp cauliflower develops a sweet nuttiness if sautéed with butter/ghee.  Adding cardamom is like adding cheese to pizza, pouring cream in coffee, spreading icing on cake.  It elevates the whole experience.  I’ve written it before: cardamom is a special spice, fragrant with floral and woodsy notes.  Redolent of jasmine and vanilla, cardamom can be high maintenance, totally aware of its celebrity status.  Pair it with the wrong item, or treat it poorly, and all of a sudden the cardamom might sulk.  Who was I to barge in on cauliflower with cardamom? 

But meddle I did—by adding cashew butter to the perfect couple and, thankfully, harmony reigned.   The resulting dish was silky, nutty and rich.  It was so good that my five-year old nephew asked for more cauliflower.  Really. 

We’re not making it for New Year’s Eve this year, but I wanted to post it tonight and wish all readers a very happy and healthy 2011.  Thank you  for reading these posts and recipes, and thank you as always for your comments, suggestions and support.  

Cauliflower with Cardamom and Cashew Butter            

Ingredients

3-4 tablespoons ghee or butter

2 heads cauliflower, green parts trimmed, florets cut into bite-sized chunks

4-5 whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed

1 cup cashew butter

¼  teaspoon cardamom powder.

Salt to taste

Scant amount of sugar for balance

To make cashew butter:

Take 1 cup roasted cashews, add two-three tablespoons canola oil and blend for a few minutes on high.  I use a mini-blender and add extra oil if needed.  The butter is done when the cashews have achieved a velvety texture.

To make the cauliflower:

Heat the butter/ghee in a deep skillet, and add the lightly crushed cardamom pods until fragrant, about two minutes.   Add the cauliflower and sauté over medium high heat until the florets begin to brown slightly at the edges.  Add a tablespoon or two of water to the cauliflower florets if needed to help them cook evenly.  Add salt and sugar to taste.  When the cauliflower is nearly done, add the cashew butter and mix thoroughly, being careful not to break the florets.  Do not overcook the cashew butter; otherwise, it loses some of its flavor.   Remove from heat and sprinkle the ¼ teaspoon of cardamom powder over the dish, stir gently to incorporate.  Done.          

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All Mixed Up

The autumn puja season is officially over, the weather is now cold, and the leaves lie in crushed, swirling patterns on our lawns and streets.  As a follow up to my begun bhaja (fried eggplant) and mamlet (omelet) posts, I would like to blog about khichuri.  Loosely translated, it means “all mixed up” in Bengali  (Bengali: খিচুড়ী khichuri). 

Despite its versatility, Khichuri has two distinct identities (and many, many variations).  One is rainy day khichuri, a little on the runny side, with large hunks of potatoes, occasionally onion and cauliflower, seasoned with a generous amount of butter/ghee and a wedge of lemon.   My parents associated this khichuri with the monsoon.  It is the one pot meal that provides warmth and comfort in the endless wet rains, when the weather becomes damp and what they might have described as cool. 

One constant:  The rice and dal are not cooked separately but all mixed together.  Classic accompaniments might include begun bhaja, maach bhaja, or egg mamlet.

The second type of khichuri is served during a Puja, and is known as Pujar Bhoger Khichuri.  This type of khichuri is made with mung dal, without onion or garlic, and tends to be a more elaborate, fragrant dish.  When younger, I preferred my mom’s Pujar Khichuri, with green peas and cauliflower cut into small pieces, browned until just sweet and a little crispy. 

For this post, I made an in-between khichuri, with mung and mushur dals, and smaller florets of cauliflower that I sautéed first.

Mimi’s Khichuri

Ingredients

Butter/ghee or oil for sautéing

1 two-inch stick cinnamon, broken into pieces

1-2 green or dried red chilies (optional) 

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

1-2 tej leaves

½ cup mushur dal

½ cup mung dal

1 cup white rice

¼ cup sliced onion

3 cups sautéed cauliflower florets

½-1 cup green peas

2 tbsp grated ginger

½ teaspoon ground cumin

Salt to taste

3-4 cups water 

Dry Toast the Dals

Combine the mung and mushur dals in a skillet over medium-low heat and dry toast for approximately 10 minutes; stir or shake the pan occasionally to redistribute the seeds evenly They will release a fragrant, nutty smell and turn a slightly darker shade when ready.  Set aside.   

Note:  The  dal can be fried in a little bit of butter or ghee for a richer flavor.

Cauliflower Prep

Sauté cauliflower florets in a skillet with a little oil and ghee, salt and turmeric.   Cauliflower should be virtually cooked through, a little brown and crispy on the edges.  Set aside.

Prepare the Phoron (oil and seed) Mixture

Add ghee/butter to a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat for a minute of two and then add the chilies, cinnamon stick, tej leaf and cumin seeds.  Make sure green chilies are sliced in half or vented with a small incision on one side.  Heat the oil until the chilies begin to blister and pop.

Mixing It Up

Add onions and sauté until translucent.  Next, add dal and rice and fry with the onions in the oil-phoron mixture for 5 minutes.  Add 4 cups water, grated ginger, salt to taste, a pinch of turmeric.  Allow dish to come to a boil.  At this stage, add an extra half cup of water if needed.  Turn heat to low, cover dish and set timer for 20 minutes.  Check dal for doneness, stir, add ½ cup of water again only if needed.  Cover and reset timer for another 1o minutes. 

Add sautéed cauliflower and green peas and stir, taking care not to break the cauliflower.  Set timer for another 10 minutes.  Khichuri is done when the dal is soft, the rice is cooked and the dish has a creamy texture, much like a finished risotto.   Serve steaming hot with a dollop of butter or ghee and a wedge of lemon.  Savor that first bite.  Add more butter and lemon if you’re tempted.   Feel warm all over.

Posted in Bengali Food, Dals, Rice, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

It’s a Love/Hate Thing

We say that we have relationships with food and with cooking.  A friend would say she has a complicated relationship with dairy; she loves ice cream and cheese, but almost never eats it, and yet she  is always tempted.   The brie lies there quietly, in the depths of her subconscious, and taunts her a little bit.   Soy milk and ice cream alternatives are held out for her like the best of consolation prizes, but she admits they are no substitute.   I am lucky in that I am not restricted by any large category, or even sub-category of food, but rather, am limited only by my own likes and dislikes. 

For me, it is the egg.   The versatile, beautiful egg, the flowing golden yolk and glossy white.  My family has loved the egg yolk, the soft boil, the shimmering sunny-side up or poached and perfectly runny, whereas I have always stayed far away.  They are mystified that I can eat “aromatic” cheeses but the smell of the egg yolk makes me run, as if from fire.   I will eat the egg in omelet or scrambled form and disguised in other things—preferably baked, sweet things or hidden discreetly by cold potatoes and mayonnaise—but the Bengali egg curry has always eluded me.

 This post is about an egg dish that I actually like, even love.  It is the Bengali omelet, called mamlet.  A mamlet and rice dinner (mamlet bhat or dim bhaja bhat), with or without dal, is among the simplest of comfort food meals: the “I don’t have time to cook meal,” the “it’s cold and late meal,” or “there’s not much in the fridge right now” meal.  It is also deeply rewarding, savory and hot, with diced fried onion and a generous handful of cilantro and assertive green chilies.  The rice should be steaming hot, served with butter or ghee and a little salt.  We surprised ourselves last week; mamlet bhat was made on a cold and windy day, and we overate, gulping down far more rice than we should have, after which we were able to do little except watch television and go to bed with full tummies and satisfied smiles.

Cilantro and Onion Bengali Omelet or Mamlet Bhat

5 eggs

1 tbsp water

2 fresh green chilies, optional

¼ tsp nigella seeds

1/3 cup finely diced onion

2 tbsp chopped cilantro           

Salt to taste

Olive oil and butter for frying

Dice onion, chop cilantro and mince green chilies.  Set aside.  Heat a non-stick skillet or omelet pan and add a little olive oil and butter.  Sauté the onions about 5 minutes over medium-low heat with the nigella seeds, until onions are translucent.   While the onions sauté, beat the eggs with a little water, add salt and the green chilies.   When the egg mixture is fluffy and full of bubbles (do not let it sit), pour it into the skillet, making sure the onions are evenly distributed.  Sprinkle the cilantro on top and turn the heat to medium/medium-high.  Shake the pan and swirl the eggs as you would for an omelet.  When the bottom has set and the entire omelet has loosened from the pan, fold in half and flip.  Cook until omelet is golden brown.  Serve with heaps of steaming rice.         

Posted in Bengali Food, Eggs | 1 Comment

Accompaniment

The Bengali meal, when allowed to  showboat in all its unabated complexity, is a grandiose, multi-course affair.  For very special occasions, one might be served 12 to 15 courses.  But for the less spectacular, everyday meal, one would be served at least four courses, with rice holding court as the queen, without which the other dishes cannot pay homage.

Today’s post is about an accompaniment to the dal course (dal might fall first or fourth in the order of courses, depending on how elaborate a meal is served).  It is about the transformation of a seemingly innocuous vegetable and about the elevation of the humble dal.  I am of course referring to Begun Bhaja or Deep Fried Eggplant, an undisputed favorite, no matter how simple or elaborate the meal.   The eggplant can be sautéed simply in oil with a little salt but my favorite version is fried in besan (or Bengali: বেসন beshon), which is the Bengali word for chick-pea (garbanzo bean) flour, also called gram flour.   

Chickpea flour is known as socca in France and farinata in Italy.  Bob’s Red Mill makes a version too, but I’ve read that it tastes different than gram flour.  Web foodies hypothesize that it is probably made with a different kind of garbanzo bean and therefore doesn’t behave in quite the same way as gram flour.

While begun bhaja and dal go together like fish and chips, the begun bhaja is also a dish unto itself, more than simply an accompaniment.  It is the starter for lunch with luchi, cholar dal and mangshor jhol, it provides rainy day comfort with khichuri, and offers the simplest of pleasures with buttered rice.

Begun Bhaja or Deep Fried Eggplant    

When the discussion of how Indian restaurant food never tastes like Bengali food comes up at a dinner party – and it occasionally does – begun bhaja is always requested, always receives the most votes for “this should be on the appetizer menu.”   I once had begun bhaja at a tapas restaurant in Chicago, as part of a fried vegetable platter, and all those conversations came rushing back to me.  With a crispy exterior, the inside soft and meltingly rich, the traditional begun bhaja is very easy to make.

 1 eggplant

1 cup dry besan

1/2-2/3 cup water

Salt to taste

Pinch of turmeric (optional)

In a mixing bowl wide enough to dredge the eggplant, measure the besan and gradually add water, mixing with a fork, until a batter is formed.  It should be the consistency of a thinnish pancake batter.  If the mixture is too thick, the besan will not be as crispy.  Too thin, and it won’t adhere to the eggplant.  Add salt to taste, and turmeric or cayenne pepper if desired.  Set aside.

Slice eggplant into rounds a little more than ¼ inch but no more than ½ inch thick.   Cut each round into half-moon shapes.  Sprinkle with salt and toss.  Some also like to add a sprinkle of sugar for balance, doing so is a matter of personal preference.  Don’t salt too far in advance; otherwise, the eggplant will release too much water, which will create challenges when frying.

In a wok or pan suitable for deep frying, heat 1 inch of vegetable or canola oil.  Test by adding a drizzle of besan.  It should sizzle vigorously.  The oil needs to be hot.  

Dredge the eggplant in the besan and gently place into the hot oil.  Do not crowd the eggplant.  Fry at medium-high for 3-4 minutes on one side, when golden-brown, flip and fry another 3-4 minutes.    Remove onto paper towels to soak up any excess oil. 

Done.   Serve with dal and rice or eat them as soon as they are cool enough to pop into your mouth.

Posted in Bengali Appetizers, Bengali Food, Eggplant, Uncategorized | 1 Comment