Baingan Bharta is a popular Punjabi recipe which is made with roasted eggplants cooked with onion tomatoes and richly flavored with spices. Eggplant or Baingan is roasted directly over flame till the skin of the eggplant is charred and easily peels off. Roasting over direct flame imparts a beautiful smoky flavor to baingan bharta.
Being a Punjabi household, our everyday food includes many dishes from Punjabi cuisine. And If you think Punjabi food is full of fat/ghee/oil or overtly spicy the way they serve it in the restaurant, you may be missing on authentic Punjabi recipes. Punjabi food is known for using innovative methods of cooking especially cooking food over the direct flame. Extensive use of tandoor in cooking, cooking roti/paratha over Chulha (wood burning Indigenous Indian stove) which adds wonderful smoky aroma to the food and makes it special. For making Baingan bharta, eggplant used to be kept over a direct flame in chulha or tandoor and skin which peels off easily after roasting is discarded. Mashed eggplant then is cooked with other ingredients to make baingan bharta.
In the urban homes we no longer cook it over wood or charcoal but I still cook it directly over flame and it comes out great, smokiness is not exactly similar but baingan bharta tastes quite good. The important step in making baingan Bharta is roasting the eggplant in right manner. For skin to peel off easily, one needs to apply a generous coating of oil which helps in the charred skin. Charring of skin of eggplant makes it easy to peel off and makes it taste smoky.
After roasting the brinjal/eggplant, it is cooled and skin is removed by peeling. It is then mashed with the help of potato masher or fork and cooked with finely chopped onion, tomatoes, green chili and simple spices. Some people add garam masala powder, coriander powder or lot of garlic to flavor it up, but I like to keep the flavor of baingan bharta simple and taste of eggplant to shine through I don’t add anything else other than salt and red chili. And yes a sprinkle of green coriander leaves and some more chopped chilies make it complete.
As I said in the beginning Authentic Punjabi recipe is based mostly on cooking method used, and not too many spices. In the Punjabi baingan bharta fresh eggplant makes a lot of difference in terms of taste. So when you are selecting eggplant for making baingan bharta, select the eggplant with the shiny and smooth surface. Also, pick the ones that are light as compared to heavier eggplant. Light eggplant has less ripe seeds which give it a great taste and good texture.
I like to serve the baingan bharta with roti, paratha or even tandoori roti, along with one dal or Punjabi curry to make a complete meal. sometimes I make it as side with a dal chawal meal. If you like to try a variation you may add boiled peas while cooking bharta, it makes a great combination.
If you like Punjabi food you may like to try these other popular dishes from Punjabi cuisine Punjabi moong dal, dal fry , Kala chana curry for an authentic Punjabi meal along with this baingan bharta recipe.