About six months ago I posted a recipe for the iconic Hyderabadi dish, baghare baingan. That dish features small baingans/brinjals/eggplants that are slit cross-wise and “stuffed” with a thick paste and then braised. The Hyderabadi classic is in fact part of a larger family of similar stuffed bainan dishes that can be found all over the south and southwest of India. The recipe I have for you today for bharli vangi—or filled/stuffed baingan—is Marathi in origin and bears a number of similarities to its Hyderabadi cousin, though there are some key differences. One of these key differences is the use of the classic Marathi spice mix, goda masala. If you live in an area with a well-stocked Indian store you should be able to find it there; otherwise, look to Amazon [affiliate link]. I should also note that while this is a Marathi recipe there is by no means only one way of making bharli vangi in Maharashtra and its border zones. Ingredients and steps can vary in important ways between communities and,) of course, from home to home.
This particular recipe comes to me from my friend Anjali (a very dangerous person, feared from Pune to Portland, from New Delhi to New Jersey) and she in turn got it long ago from a neighbour. Unlike many Marathi versions this does not use coconut and instead deploys a mix of roasted sesame and peanut. I can tell you the result is just excellent. If you’ve not had/made it in this style, give it a go. And if there’s a different way in which you make it please let me know in the comments: perhaps we could crowd-source a book called The Vangi Variations. And this recipe, I should also say, is probably not exactly how Anjali herself makes it. I had to cajole measurements and steps out of her very carefully (she is, as I noted, a very dangerous person); like most home-cooks she makes hers by eyeballing amounts.
Oh, and many thanks to Pradnya for sending me a packet of goda masala (it might be available elsewhere in the Twin Cities but not at the desi stores I usually go to).
- 8-10 small round eggplants, slit cross-wise from the base but left intact at the stem end (trim the stems but don’t remove them completely).
For the stuffing, the following 11 ingredients mixed together:
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1-2 tblspns chopped dhania/cilantro
- 1 tblspn’s worth of block tamarind soaked in 1/2 cup warm water, squeezed and strained
- 1.5-2 tblspns powdered jaggery
- 1 tspn red chilli powder
- 2 tspns dhana-jeera powder (see note below)
- 1 tblspn goda masala
- 6 tblspns coarsely ground peanuts
- 3 tblspns sesame seeds, dry-roasted over medium heat till they just begin to pop, cooled and powdered.
- 3/4 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
- 1 tspn salt
- 2-3 tblspns oil
- 1 tspn black mustard seeds
- 1/4 tspn haldi/turmeric
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/8 tspn hing/asafoetida
- Water, as needed
- Salt, as needed
- 1-2 tblspn chopped dhania for garnish
- Fill the slit eggplants as best you can with the mixed masala. Set aside. You may have some stuffing leftover; don’t sweat it.
- Heat the oil over medium heat and add the mustard seeds.
- As soon as the mustard seeds start popping add the other tadka ingredients.
- As soon as the garlic begins to brown (very soon) add the stuffed eggplants and any leftover stuffing to the pan and stir gently to mix.
- Add 3/4 cup water, give the pan a shake to mix it in, lower the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and cook till the eggplants begin to soften.
- Uncover the pan after 10-15 minutes, add another 1/2-3/4 cup of water to loosen the gravy a bit, cover and cook till the eggplants are tender.
- Taste and adjust for salt, garnish with the chopped dhania and serve.
- For the small, round eggplants called for in recipes like this, look to your Indian store. If you can’t find any, just chunk up some long eggplant and proceed with the recipe without bothering with the stuffing.
- Dhana-jeera powder can also be found in Indian stores but, like me, you can make your own at home by grinding 2 parts coriander seed and 1 part cumin seed together. Make a small batch, keep it in a capped container and use it over a month or so.
- As you can see from the picture, this recipe yields a thick gravy that is closer to a paste i.e it’s barely pourable.
- This is a fairly humble dish in its origins but the flavours are rich and complex: you could serve this as the show-stopping main dish at a dinner party.
- Anjali says she uses more or less the same recipe for a number of vegetables. I’ve made it a couple of times already as is but, following her lead, have also adapted it slightly for a version with zucchini (for which I may post a separate recipe at some point).