An Ode to the Indian Eggplant

Eggplant, brinjal, or aubergine, whatever you call it, can be a love-hate proposition. I mean, some people absolutely love the vegetable, like myself, while, on the other hand, just in my own house, there are two other people who absolutely hate it and won’t even look at it! It’s such a shame, and I think they are missing out big time on this so-called “king of vegetables”! Well, I happen to love it in all of its forms and enjoy in all of the cuisines that it is used in – Italian, Mediterranean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and of course, Indian! 

Being an Indian born and raised, I’m more familiar with the small, baby or Indian eggplant, as it is commonly known, and tend to use it in my home cooking more often than any of the other varieties. So this blog post is an ode to the Indian eggplant that I use to make the most popular dish from my home state of Maharashtra, called Bharli Vangi.

Maharashtrian Bharli Vangi

The Maharashtrian Bharli Vangi Recipe

The Maharashtrian Bharli Vangi is a classic curry made by stuffing baby eggplants with a hot and sweet mixture of diced onion, freshly grated coconut, ground jaggery, crushed roasted peanuts, chopped cilantro/coriander leaves, a hint of heat from red chili powder, and the quintessential Marathi kala/goda masala. The stuffing is spicy, smoky, sweet and just so delicious! I love to make extra and spread it over some flame roasted papads (Indian lentil crackers) for snack! After using to stuff the baby eggplants, the leftover stuffing mix is used as the base for making the curry in which the eggplants are cooked.

Maharashtrian Bharli Vangi

Regional Variations of the Classic Indian Brinjal Curry

Throughout India, you’ll find several variations of this stuffed baby eggplant curry. Every region has its own unique version that is drastically different from the others, yet equally delicious. The Punjabi Bharwa Baingan from the north is made with unique dried spices like fennel seeds and dried mango powder, in addition to the usual ground coriander, turmeric, and hot Indian red chili powder, all mixed together and stuffed into baby eggplants. These eggplants are then cooked in a spicy tomato-onion curry.

Maharashtrian Bharli Vangi

The Gutti Vankaya from Telugu/Andhra cuisine in the south is made by stuffing the baby eggplants with a ground mixture of spices, lentils (urad and chana dals), sesame seeds, peanuts, and dry or desiccated coconut. They are then cooked in a curry leaf-scented, hot and sour onion curry that derives its tangy flavor from the use of tamarind.

Eggplant Curry Variations within the Western Indian Region 

In addition to the Maharashtrian recipe from the western side of the country, there is also the Gujarati version of Indian eggplants called Bharela Ringan Nu Shaak or Ravaiya. This dish uses a hot and sour stuffing mixture made with a variety of spices mixed with ground peanuts, dry mango powder, chickpea flour, and a hint of sweetness from sugar.

Maharashtrian Bharli Vangi

Unlike the Maharashtrian version, this preparation doesn’t have a curry or gravy base. Instead, the stuffed eggplants are either steamed or cooked slowly with very little oil, resulting in a drier texture.

Memories of Home

While I have tried and tasted most of these regional versions of the Indian stuffed eggplant curry, I naturally seem to make the Marathi recipe that I grew up eating. It is very near and dear to me. Every single time I make it, it reminds me of home, my mom, and my grandmother. It is usually served with the classic pairing – the gluten-free millet flatbreads like jowar or bajra bhakris but also goes very well with steamed basmati rice, Indian flatbreads such as whole wheat phulka rotis or chapatis for a satisfying lunch or dinner.

Maharashtrian Bharli Vangi

Give it a try, I bet you’ll relish every bite of this lip-smacking curry, just like I do! I have outlined step-by-step details below that you can follow to whip up this signature concoction in your own kitchen.

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Maharashtrian Bharli Vangi


  • Author: Vasanti
  • Yield: Serves 2-3 1x

Description

Quick & easy recipe with step-by-step instructions for making the traditional stuffed brinjal/eggplant/aubergine curry from Maharashtra, India.


Ingredients

Scale

For the Stuffing

  • 89 Indian or baby eggplants/ brinjals/ aubergines
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut, fresh or frozen thawed
  • 1/4 cup crushed roasted unsalted peanuts
  • 2 tbsp ground jaggery
  • 1 tbsp Maharashtrian Kala/ Goda masala (homemade or store-bought) (see Notes)
  • 1 tsp regular Indian red chili powder (skip or use less for a milder flavor)
  • salt, to taste
  • 1215 sprigs of cilantro/coriander, leaves and tender parts of stems, chopped

For the Curry

  • 2 tbsp neutral oil of choice
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 3/4 cup water

Instructions

  • In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients for the stuffing, reserving about 1/3 of the chopped cilantro/coriander for garnishing later and set it aside.
  • Wash the baby eggplants and trim the stems, either by removing them completely or just a little at the end. Using a paring knife, slit each eggplant crosswise from the base, about more than 3/4th way down to the stem, but not completely all the way through.
  • Using your fingers, gently separate the quarters. Take about a tablespoon of the stuffing and gently push it down the slits to stuff the eggplants, one by one.
  • In a medium pot, sauce pan or a kadhai, heat the oil over medium high heat and when it starts shimmering, add in the cumin and mustard seeds along with the asafoetida and turmeric.
  • When the seeds sizzle and the spices froth, transfer the stuffed baby eggplants to the pot with the hot seasoned oil.  
  • Top with the leftover stuffing mixture. 
  • Gently pour in the water over the eggplants.
  • Turn the heat down to low and cook covered for 5-7 minutes.
  • Uncover and then using the cooking spoon, gently turn each eggplant over.
  • Cover and continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes on low heat.
  • Take the lid off and simmer uncovered for 5 more minutes.
  • Once the moisture has almost evaporated completely, garnish with chopped cilantro/coriander and serve warm along with whole wheat, jowar or bajra rotis. 

Keywords: Maharashtrian Recipes, Family Recipes, Quick & Easy

Step-by-Step Details

Step: 1

In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients for the stuffing (listed below on the recipe card), reserving about ⅓rd of the chopped cilantro/coriander leaves for garnishing later and set it aside. Wash the baby eggplants and trim the stems, either by removing them completely or just a little at the end. Using a paring knife, slit each eggplant crosswise from the base, about more than ¾th the way down to the stem, but not completely all the way through. Using your fingers, gently separate the quarters. Take about a tablespoon of the stuffing and gently push it down the slits to stuff the eggplants, one by one.

Step: 2

In a medium pot, sauce pan or a kadhai, heat the oil over medium high heat and when it starts shimmering, add in the cumin and mustard seeds along with the asafoetida and turmeric.

Step: 3

When the seeds sizzle and the spices froth, transfer the stuffed baby eggplants to the pot with the hot seasoned oil.

Step: 4

Top with the leftover stuffing mixture.

Step: 5

Gently pour in the water over the eggplants.

Step: 6

Turn the heat down to low and cook covered for 5-7 minutes.

Step: 7

Uncover and then using the cooking spoon, gently turn each eggplant over. Cover and continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes on low heat.

Step: 8

Take the lid off and simmer uncovered for 5 more minutes.

Step: 9

Once the moisture has almost evaporated completely, garnish with chopped cilantro/coriander and serve warm along with whole wheat, jowar or bajra rotis.

Recipe FAQ’s and Notes

No Maharashtrian Goda/Kala Masala?

If you can’t find Maharashtrian Goda/Kala Masala, use 2 tsp Garam Masala + 1 tsp of desiccated coconut or crushed unsweetened coconut flakes

No Indian Baby Eggplants?

If you can’t find Indian baby eggplants, you can use Thai green baby eggplants.

Or the American Eggplant!

You can also use large cubes of American or Italian eggplant in place of baby eggplant. Simply toss the stuffing mixture along with the eggplant cubes and then add them to the pot with the hot seasoned oil. Follow the rest of the recipe as is.

Recipe Variations

Add baby potatoes, cut into wedges, along with stuffed baby eggplants to make the curry heartier.

Use the stuffing as a topping to make Maharashtrian-style Masala Papad (lentil crackers).

Happy cooking
Vasanti

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Hi I’m Vasanti
…and I ❤️cooking ‘n clicking!!
I share a modern take on Indian cuisine made using nontraditional techniques and ingredients, while staying true to its authenticity. You’ll also find classic recipes from my beloved Maharashtrian culture and heritage.



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