Baingan Bhaja is a Bengali recipe in which Baingan (eggplant/aubergine, call it what you will) is cut into thin slices, marinated for about 20 minutes, and then shallow fried. Soft, warm and mildly spiced, these discs of fried eggplant can be enjoyed as a snack, as well as an accompaniment with roti or rice.
My nani (maternal grandmother) is not from Bengal, but she loved the region so much that she gave her daughter — and then me — a Bengali name. But, her love for the region was not just for names. It was also for the food. One of the dishes my mother remembers from her childhood is “nani’s Baingan Bhaja”. Nani used to prepare it mostly as a snack.
From what I understand, Bhaja is the method of preparation.
Preparation Time: 10 mins (+20 mins marination time) | Cooking Time: 15 mins | Serves: 2
3 round eggplants
1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp poppy seeds (optional)
Oil for shallow frying
* Cut the eggplant into thin slices (1/2 inch each). Soak in salt water as you cut.
* Mix red chilli powder, turmeric, salt and poppy seeds in a bowl. Poppy seeds lend the baingan slices crispiness. But, they are not essential to the recipe.
* Drain the eggplant slices, and rub each slice with the spice mix on both sides. Keep aside for 15-20 mins.
* Heat oil in a shallow frying pan. Once the oil is hot, shallow fry in batches. Flip in the middle and cook until the eggplant is soft and cooked. Be careful not to overcook — else the slices will lose their shape.
Note: Traditionally, mustard oil is used for shallow frying the bhaja. I use regular vegetable oil because I find mustard oil very strong.
* Serve hot as a snack or a vegetarian accompaniment in the thali.
I had a few leftovers and the next day. I used them as filling for my lunch sandwich — and they tasted awesome. You can follow the same recipe to make potato bhaja, bitter gourd or bottle gourd bhaja as well.