The taste of begun bhaja is difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t eaten fried brinjals. Suffice it to say that it is probably unlike anything you’ve ever tasted, especially if seasoned with the right amount of salt and sugar. And we won’t even go into how drop-dead gorgeous the finished product is. The recipe is ridiculously simple. You smear thickly sliced brinjals in turmeric and seasoning, and fry them on medium heat in a skillet. The sugar in the marinade allows the brinjals to develop a wonderfully amber-coloured crust, and deepens the flavour of the dish. If you have 20 minutes to spare, give this recipe a try. Eat it along with steaming rice and dal, and you will not regret it.
This recipe uses one large brinjal. When shopping for the vegetable, be sure to select a specimen of the male variety as it is likely to contain far fewer seeds than its female counterpart. You can identify the type of the brinjal by looking at the indentation on its bottom. If the indentation is elongated and deep, it’s a female brinjal. And if it is round and shallow, that’s the seedless, male brinjal.
- 1 large brinjal
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- a pinch red chilli powder
- ¾ tsp salt
- 1½ tsp sugar
- ¾ tsp flour (atta)
- ~80 g mustard oil (for frying)
- Wash the brinjal and chop off its stalk. Cut the vegetable along the cross-section into discs, 2 cm thick. A large brinjal should yield about 6 slices.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the turmeric powder, red chilli powder, salt, sugar, and atta.
- Add the brinjal slices to the bowl and coat them with the spices.
- Cover and let them rest for at least 15 minutes. During this time, the salt and sugar will draw out the water from the brinjal slices and soften them up. The moisture generated will also help all the flavours mingle nicely. So, don’t skip this step.
- Now, heat mustard oil in a skillet till it starts smoking lightly. For even frying, the depth of the mustard oil in the pan should be at least 1 cm.
- Lower the marinated brinjal slices into the oil one by one and fry them on each side, for about 3 minutes, till they are golden. Make sure that the pan is set on medium-low heat; we want to cook the brinjal slices from the inside while allowing them to develop a nice crust on the outside. Also, keep a close eye on the pan, as the sugar in the marinade may burn.
- When golden, lift the begun bhaja from the oil. Hold them against the side of the pan for about 20 seconds to drain out excess oil, or use paper towels to soak it up. Serve hot.