If there was one vegetable that was not a favourite in my childhood, it was Baigan (Brinjal/ Eggplant/ Aubergine). There were mainly three ways Mom would make the vegetable and it depended on the size of the brinjal.- Baigan ka Bharta for the fuller, round variety, Baigan – aloo with the slender, long brinjals and the chatpate baigan, the smaller variety that made use of jaggery and tamarind pulp in its recipe. Of the three the last one was bearable but still, it did nothing to appease my taste buds. Then one fine day, someone mentioned that it’s the most “useless” of vegetables since it had no benefits. It is, for this reason, its called “Baigan” or “Bin Gun” (without any good qualities).
Why was the world eating eggplant then? Is it really without any good nutritional value?
A Bengali without Begun Bhaja is pretty much akin to the Bengali cuisine without fish. Sliced in roundels and lavishly dusted with spices, shallow fried and served as a perfect side dish it makes the meal complete. Ratatouille, the French Provençal stewed vegetable dish, uses Brinjal as a necessary ingredient while one can play around with a few other ingredients. The Arabs love their Baba Ganoush which is pureed roasted aubergine with garlic and tahini. The word besides being a joy to pronounce is absolutely marvellous as a side dish or appetiser. As the story goes, it originated in the royal harem and means a “pampered daddy.” The pampered Sultans surely must have loved the dish and so the popularity of the dish goes to them.
Brinjal is actually a botanical fruit since it has seeds in it. However, its cooked and eaten as a vegetable. It is extremely nutritious and is very effective in the treatment of obesity, hypertension, acne, and hair loss. It is now being recognised as a dietary solution to Type II Diabetes in its early stages because of its high fibre and low soluble carbohydrate content. The fruit is rich in Vitamins A and B.
In my journey from a young kid to an adult and in my travels far and near, I gradually developed a taste for it. I enjoy its versatility in different cuisines. And though I have enjoyed it as an appetiser, a side dish and the main dish, I have rarely had it as a raita. The first time I ever tasted it in yoghurt was for a pop-up event where thin slices of it were deep fried and added to tempered yoghurt. I loved its smokey taste mingling with the smoothness of the curd. Once back home, I tried my own version of Baigan Raita. The taste is very different from anything I had eaten earlier and it is the best baigan raita recipe. After roasting the brinjal on the burner I peel it and use my clean, bare hands to mash it. An add-on of basic ingredients and a few spoons of curd makes it one of the dishes that is repeated often at home. Our friends love it too and I have shared this recipe often. The other day Mom mentioned that a similar recipe is made in Maharashtra. Do let me know if there is a dish that is made in a similar procedure anywhere else?
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