Which shape is the most preferred shape of Begun Bhaja for you? The long fine slices, one with a part of the long stem at the top or the perfectly cut round slices, ones like coins of some currency? Let the world call it eggplant or aubergine but for us, it’s Begun. ‘Begun’, like a versatile actor, keeps coming back in many forms and shapes throughout the year. Begun Pora or roasted begun on a medium flame during winter or the special appearance with the monsoon essential Ilish in the form of a Ilish beguner jhol and much more. In our house, we make a Begun Masala which is not a traditional Bengali recipe but made with coriander chutney and other spices, it is a terrific dish that goes well with rotis or even rice.
Begun Bhaja is perfectly combined with either Luchi and also with Khichuri. It is a tough choice to figure out which one is a better combination just like one cannot decide which was a more romantic pair- Uttam Kumar Suchitra Sen or Uttam Kumar Supriya devi. Old timers may bring in the memories of Sabitri Chattopadhyay also but in my opinion, these two combinations have been the ultimate epitome of romance.
Many think, that making Begun Bhaja is a cake walk but one who has made it ask them. It’s not easy. As my friend – the journalist and author Chandrima once said – begun Bhaja is like making a steak. The perfect begun bhaja, that I like is the one which has got crispy skin on top, slightly burnt but not fully and which can be peeled off. The soft delicious flesh of this purple coloured vegetable lies in layers beneath. In case you have seen The Stranger things, one of the best shows in Netflix in recent times, you would know how one has to cross a certain mesh to enter the alternate world. The crispy skin on top is the mesh through which you enter the soft flesh of the begun. When done in a hurry, have seen Ma making rectangular pieces also or was it to make more pieces for optimum utilization of the begun? Served piping hot, non greasy and with a sprinkle of poppy seeds on top, leave it with the luchi. Let the luchi sing………
Begun Bhaja or Bengali Style Brinjal Fry
- 2 nos Brinjal/ Begun It should ideally be a medium sized one
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1/2 tsp Red Chili Powder optional
- 1 tsp aata or whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp Sugar
- oil for deep frying
- Wash the brinjals and pat them dry. Cut each of them into long quarter slicers. Basically, cut the brinjal into 4 quarters length wise along with the stem.
- Sprinkle turmeric powder, red chili powder, salt, sugar and aata on the slices and massage them over the skin on all sides.
- Now there are 2 ways of frying them. Either you could shallow fry in a frying pan (which is what most people do on a regular basis) or you could deep fry them. When there is a large quantity to be made, it is better to deep fry since it is quicker and brinjals more or less soak up too much oil in any case. But for just two people, it is better to shallow fry. It is more time consuming but requires less oil of course.
- To deep fry, heat the oil. When the oil is hot, put in the slices slowly into the oil. Bring the temperature to medium. We don't want the skin to burn without the inside cooking. If you see that the skin is burning too fast, then completely lower the temeperature.
- It takes about 5 minutes for each batch of slices to cook completely. The skin has to be browned and crispy. Use a slotted spoon to drain out the oil and keep the slices on a kitchen towel to soak up the excess oil.
- Sprinkle poppy seeds and serve them hot with khichdi or luchi. We also eat with roti, paratha and just about anything.
- In case you don't want to deep fry, then for shallow frying, it is better to cut the rbinjals into round slices, about a cm thick. then continue the process of massaging the slices with the spices.
- In a frying pan, take 2 - 3 tbsp of oil and when the oil is hot, place the slices on the frying pan. Then lower the temperature. Cover the fring pan for a couple of minutes. Open the lid and sprinkle a little bit of water.
- Flip the slices to the other side, raise the temperature for a minute and again lower the temperature and cover and cook.
- Here also, you have to decide on when to increase or decrease the temperature depending on how the skin is burning. If ou feel the need, then add a little bit more of oil.
- When the flesh has become soft, turn off the heat and serve them hot.