November 19, 2006

A quick peek at East India...

My recent search for new cooking inspirations have led me to the Eastern regions of North India where I have began getting caught up with the influential culture and array of tantalizing spice mixtures. I was very much educated about this colorful region of India by "my-favorite online companion....Wikipedia" *grin* and shall share a couple of interesting facts of this amazing place with everyone; not to mention a delicious Bengali recipe down the bottom of course *wink*
"Bengali" is a state in eastern India. With Bangladesh, which lies on its eastern border, the state forms the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal. To its northeast lie the states of Assam and Sikkim and the country Bhutan, and to its southwest, the state of Orissa. The region that is now West Bengal was a part of a number of empires and kingdoms during the past two millenia.

The British East India Company cemented their hold on the region following the Battle of Plassey in 1757 CE, and the city of Kolkata, then Calcutta, served for many years as the capital of British
India. A hotbed of the Indian independence movement through the early 20th century, Bengal was divided in 1947 into two separate entities, West Bengal - a state of India, and East Pakistan belonging to the new nation of Pakistan.

The Bangla language boasts a rich literary heritage, shared with neighboring Bangladesh.Mainstream Hindi films are popular, as are films from the Bengali cinema industry, dubbed "Tollywood."The Bengali film industry is also known for art films.

Rice and fish are traditional favorite foods, leading to a saying that in Bengali, machhe bhate bangali, that translates as "fish and rice make a Bengali".Bengal's vast repertoire of fish-based dishes includes hilsa preparations, a favorite among Bengalis.

"Baigun Bhaja" (fried eggplant)
3 Large thick eggplants (sliced into 1 cm thickness)
1 tbsp garam masala
3 tsp tumeric
2 tsp salt
3 tsp chilli powder
2-3 tbsp peanut oil to fry
I used a non-stick teflon pan and reduced the amount of oil needed, but its good to have a little oil as it helps add a nutty flavour and crisps the corners better. Dunk large slices of eggplant into a large bowl filled with ice cold water. Leave to soak for 10-15 minutes. Place spices in a shallow dish and mix to combine. Generously coat the eggplant pieces and pan fry in oil on medium heat; being careful not to burn the spices. Pan fry on both sides till fragrant and soft in the centers. Corners and surface should be crisp. This is a perfect side dish for piping hot Indian curry, dhall, naan breads and even briyani. I was satisfied having these with simple fragrant white basmati rice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great recipe. If you want to make the egg plant less absorbent, so that it soaks up much less oil, salt the sliced begun lightly and leave it in a plastic bag in the fridge for at least overnight. Drain and dry the begun. It's amazing the difference this makes.