About two and a half months ago I posted a recipe for the classic Marathi dish, bharli vangi. That recipe came to me from my good friend Anjali, who in turn had got it from a neighbour many years prior. As I noted in that post, bharli vangi—like so many dishes in the vast regional repertoires of India—is not a dish so much as a genre, changing subtly from region to region, from community to community and from home to home. Anjali’s version departs from some more familiar versions—depending on your point of view—in that it does not feature coconut at all; instead deploying a mix of roasted sesame seeds and peanuts. The recipe I have for you today comes to me from another Maharashtrian friend, Pradnya (who comments on the blog from time to time and who sent me the goda masala I used to make the other version). This one does include coconut—and there are some other differences too. Pradnya originally posted it many years ago on the food forum of Another Subcontinent, a long dormant website whose food forum was once one of the important nodes on the early Indian foodie web. With her permission, I am posting it again on my blog. The formatting and language are mostly mine and some of the ingredients and steps are lightly adapted as well from her original instructions. My version ends up more sour than hers (she says her mother would approve).
- 10-12 small eggplant (about 1-2 inches in diameter)
For the stuffing
- 1 cup shredded coconut, frozen or fresh
- 3 tblspns roasted peanuts
- The following masalas mixed: 1 tspn cumin powder, 1 tspn coriander powder, 1 tspn salt, 1/2 tspn chilli powder, 1 heaped tblspn goda masala
- 1 tspn block tamarind, soaked and squeeze with just a little bit of water to make a very thick paste.
For the gravy
- Half a medium sized onion, chopped
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
- A 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
- 1 Thai chili, minced.
- 1 tspn mustard seeds
- 5-10 curry leaves
- A pinch of hing/asafoetida
- 1 tspn of haldi/turmeric
- 1 tblspn of block tamarind soaked in 2 cups of water and squeezed and strained to produce a thick but easily pourable extract.
- 1-1/2 tblspn of jaggery or brown sugar
- 2 tblspns cilantro and/or green onions, chopped, for garnish
- 4 tblspns of oil
- Water, as needed
- Salt, as needed
- Prepare the stuffing by grinding the coconut, roasted peanuts and masala powders together into a thick paste. Scrape it out and strain the thick tamarind paste into it and mix well with your fingers.
- Make two crossed slits in each eggplant from the base going almost all the way to the stem but not cutting through.
- Massage the stuffing into the slits, reserving any excess, and set the stuffed eggplants aside as you prepare the gravy.
- In a pan that can hold all the eggplants comfortably heat the oil over medium heat.
- When the oil shimmers add the mustard seeds.
- As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop add the curry leaves hing and turmeric. Stir till the curry leaves become glossy.
- Add the chopped onion and saute for a few minutes.
- Add the finely chopped garlic, ginger and chillies and saute for a few more minutes.
- Add the stuffed eggplants to the pan and cook for 10 minutes or so with the pan covered or till the eggplants are evenly browned; uncover the pan a few times to carefully turn the eggplants over to brown evenly. If the onion mixture is at risk of scorching add 1/4 cups of water at a time and mix in.
- When the eggplants are browned and just beginning to soften add the strained tamarind extract along with any reserved excess stuffing and mix in. Simmer uncovered till the eggplants have softened completely.
- Stir in the jaggery, taste and adjust for salt.
- Garnish with the dhania and/or green onions and serve with rice.
- Depending on the grinder you use to make the stuffing you may need to add 1/4 cup or so of water to help the blades do their job. The consistency of the stuffing can be smooth or a relatively coarse chop.
- Depending on the texture/freshness of your eggplant you may in step 10 need to simmer them with the pan covered till they have softened completely. You can then uncover and reduce the gravy at a high simmer if it seems to thin.
- That said, this version does have more gravy than Anjali’s; it should be easily pourable.
- If your local desi store does not have goda masala (though it probably will) you can find it on Amazon [affiliate link].
- Your local desi store will almost certainly have small eggplants. Call ahead to find out when fresh vegetables are delivered to the store.
- Many thanks to Pradnya for sharing her recipe