Many culinary traditions embrace the versatile meaty eggplant. Baingan Bharta (mashed eggplant), which originated from the Punjab region of India, appears on tables in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. After attempting this spicy eggplant and tomato dish several times, I finally found my favorite way to make this recipe at home.
What works to make it better? Roasting the eggplants whole without piercing them allows the internal moisture to remain inside longer and heightens their flavor. Removing excess seeds from the eggplant after roasting takes away an unappealing green, grassy flavor. Peeling the tomatoes improves the texture of the stew. Controlling the amount of chili pepper seeds prevents the heat from overpowering the flavors of the vegetables.
Baingan Bharta makes a great vegan or vegetarian entrée or side dish served over or without basmati rice and a variety of Indian flatbreads.
Better Baingan Bharta
- 2 medium sized eggplant or 4 Asian eggplant
- 2 yellow onions, finely diced
- 1 tbsp salt
- 3 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
- 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Fresno chili peppers, finely diced (keep seeds from one half of one pepper – more if you like it spicier)
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- 4 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
- Place whole eggplant into preheated 400F oven on baking sheet covered in aluminum foil for 50-60 minutes. Flip eggplants on sheet midway through. If roasting the narrower Asian eggplant, reduce roasting time to 2-25 minutes.
- Chop the onions, ginger, garlic, and peppers, if you haven’t done so already.
- Make two thin cross cuts on the bottom of each tomato (few millimeters deep) toward the top stems. Place in boiling water for 1 minute and remove. After they cool, peel the tomatoes and coarsest chop them. Reserve juices.
- When eggplants are roasted transfer them to a pot or bowl and cover for 10 minutes to cool.
- Heat oil in Dutch oven on stove. When oil is shiny and hot, add onions and salt. Sauté until lightly browned on medium heat.
- Add ginger, garlic, and peppers and toss with onion until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add tomatoes and dry spices. Stir while cooking on medium to low heat for about 10 minutes.
- Peel eggplant skin and discard. Cut top of stems off and discard. If the eggplant is seedy, scoop the denser clusters of seeds away and discard. It’s okay to leave some seeds behind. Chop remaining eggplant flesh and add to Dutch oven. Stir thoroughly and cook on low heat for another 10 minutes.
- Taste for right amount of salt seasoning and adjust as needed. Turn heat off and stir in fresh cilantro. Serve over basmati rice with cilantro garnish on top.