Hyderabadi Bagara Baingan – Curried baby eggplants in medley of nutty spices that attest the repertoire of Nizami Cuisine.
Time and again, life has reconnected me to this city of Nizam in some strange ways. It was almost a decade back when I re traced my journey to Hyderabad, but this time I decided to stay in the city for few years, thus making it my second home. There are lots of memories of this bi-religious city, and most of them are inclined towards food and food only. Quiet natural I guess ! The exemplary biryanis the city is known for , the mirch ka salan, khubani ka meetha, all amounts to making the city a foodie’s paradise and as I spent my days chasing the flavours across its streets, one after another , I chanced upon this – Baghare baingan! Never imagined that eggplants can be cooked in such a zesty way.
Hyderabadi bagara baingan or Hyderabadi style tempered eggplants, a culinary delicacy from the city of Nizam’s and is perhaps the best eggplant dish I have ever tasted.
Bagara means tempering the oil with spices, a traditional Indian practice of cooking to enhance the aroma of a dish. This dish is an amalgamation of rich Nizami cuisine (which is largely influenced by Awadhi cuisine) with flavour of rustic Andhra cuisine blending into a hallmark dish of the region.
The magic of baghare baingan lies in its unique blend of spices, eggplants here are twice cooked. Deep velvety purple baby eggplants are first stuffed with flavoured coconut-groundnut-sesame paste, then tempered in hot oil and finally simmered in fragrant and spicy gravy slowly absorbing the flavour and acquiring the rich and creamy taste.
The baby eggplants are integral to this dish, they gives a unique texture to the dish but if you do not have access to these, then you can substitute it with small purple eggplants which are readily available everywhere.
Over the years I was bonded to this recipe without altering anything in the long list of ingredients. Few weeks ago I have made this dish once again for my guests, and since I could not lay my hands on Guntur chillies here in US, I thought of substituting them with Kashmiri red chillies, which when ground along with the other spices, imparts a nice color to the dish. If you are so desperate for the color, then you can use Kashmiri chillies for the rich and vivid color.
The use of the ingredients like groundnut / peanuts, sesame, roasted bengal gram, dry red chillies and tangy scent of tamarind makes it unique and classified it as typical Hyderabadi cuisine.
From Paradise circle to Punjagutta, Banjara hills to Jubilee hills all the restaurant serves this Hyderabadi special called baghara baingan but can you beat the home cooked version?
This recipe is special to me as this was the first Hyderabadi recipe I learnt from my friend’s aunt during my few years of stay in Begumpet.
They were very fond of chillies, and that too small rounded Guntur chillies, very hot but I was not scared as I too have this penchant for hot and spicy foods. The mornings were flavoured with different kinds of spice blends that the women of the house used to make in those large grinding stone. The house breaths of strong aroma of spice blends and freshly brewed coffee, that lingers in the air for many hours. Besides the curry leaves, they also love to flavour the dish with young and tender leaves of tamarind, which gives a distinct flavour to the dish. It was surprising for me but gives a very refreshing touch to the dish.
So here is the recipe for baghare baingan or stuffed and tempered egg plants right from the house of a Hyderabadi.
- Baby eggplants: 10-12 (deep purple, 2-3 cm long max. tender; If you are shopping for baby eggplants in Bangalore, then do check the Naamdharis, otherwise it's not so common in local grocery store or vegetable market)
- Black mustard seeds: ½ tsp
- Cumin seeds: ½ tsp
- Fenugreek seeds : ½ tsp
- Nigella / kalonji : ¼ tsp
- Garlic flakes: few
- Dry red chilli (if you are using Guntur chilli then 1-2 is enough) : 4-5
- Curry leaves: few
- Channa dal / Bengal gram: a quarter cup
- Groundnuts / peanuts: a quarter cup
- Sesame seeds (white): a quarter cup
- Desiccated coconut : ¾ cup
- Coriander seeds : 1 tsp
- Onion (coarsely chopped) : 1 medium
- Ginger minced : ½ tbsp
- Garlic minced : ½ tbsp
- Red chilli powder: 2 tsp
- Kashmiri red chillies : 3-4 (soaked in water)
- Turmeric powder: ¼ tsp
- Tamarind paste: 3-4 tbsp
- Ground nut Oil : 4-5 tbsp
- salt to taste
- Wash the baby eggplants and slit them perpendicularly (make a +) in the center from the base of each eggplant to its stem, keep the stem intact.
- Soak the eggplants in salt water for few minutes to retain its deep purple color.
- Remove from the water and pat them dry.
- Roast the ingredients listed for stuffing and blend in a mixer to a coarse paste (without adding any water) and neatly stuff the eggplants with this mixture. Keep some of the stuffing mix to be used later in the gravy.
- Heat 2 tbsp ground nut oil in a pan and temper / bagar the smoking hot oil with the tempering ingredients, add the curry leaves in the end, otherwise it will get burnt.
- Now lower the heat and place the stuffed eggplants in the same oil and let it cook for 10-15 minutes till they become tender.
- Poke the eggplants with a fork to make sure that eggplants are all well cooked.
- Remove gently each of the eggplants to a serving dish and keep them aside.
- Lightly roast the onions and ginger - garlic in a ½ spoon of oil. In a mixer, grind the onions, ginger-garlic, and the red chillies and make a smooth paste. This is also called bhuna masala.
- Add some more oil in the pan and add the onion - ginger- garlic-chilli paste. Fry for few minutes.
- Add the turmeric powder, chilli powder and the remaining stuffing mix. Fry gently for few more minutes till it leaves oil.
- Dilute the tamarind paste and add it to the gravy. Add salt and mix well.
- Add some water (1 cup) and bring it to boil.
- Lower the heat and gently place the eggplants in it. Simmer for few minutes till done. Check for the seasonings, adjust the sourness, salt and remove from the heat.
- Serve hot the baghare baingan or tempered eggplants with Hyderabadi biryani or enjoy it simply with roti. In any case its a sure winner.
Hope you have enjoyed this recipe