Sunday, 17 June 2012

A slice of spice

Eggplant Slice - Vangyaachey Kaap!

It’s bitter cold and raining in Melbourne but we have been warmed by a meal of our favourite ‘vaangyachey kaap’. I sit down to write the recipe. This is a dish from Maharashtra. Vangi means eggplant and kaap is slice.  What do I call it in English? Egg plant chops? No, sounds too porky.  Eggplant chips? No, these aren’t deep fried. Eggplant fritters? No, they aren’t really battered like fritters.

Eggplant slice? Yes!!

‘Slice’ is such a mouth watering word. Perhaps not when it is a mundane slice of bread one handles in the morning rush. But it certainly is mouth watering when you remember slicing a loaf of the still warm, moist and slightly sour, soft bread from John’s bakery and generously spreading it with Amul butter or white butter. Dunking this slice into a glass of thick hot sweet boiled chai gives you a brekkie fit for a king.  (Aside- have you ever wondered why tea tastes different when sipped out of a glass, a stainless steel tumbler, a porcelain mug, a bone china cup or a kullad?). This brings to mind another childhood memory. In one of his books, James Herriot the famous vet/writer has recounted his hard struggle one bitter cold night to help a birthing cow. The grumpy farmer is of no help, but afterwards the farmer’s wife makes up for all the trouble by plying Herriot with thick slices of homemade bread slathered in home churned butter and topped with golden home harvested honey. I remember reading the book, as was my wont, into the wee hours of the morning when hunger pangs struck and I had no better choice than to vicariously share Herriot’s gut warming pleasure.

Another childhood memory clamouring for a slice this word space is that of waiting impatiently one summer for the two volumes of fairy tales Mother had ordered from Readers’ Digest and finally when they arrived in the mail, reading each one in one sitting ! Somewhere in there was this story of an ogre devouring slices of watermelon. “Slurp! Slurp”, they would go. This was my first realisation, years before commencing literary studies and learning about onomatopoeia, that the sound of some words echoed their sense!

As a young girl I went through the rites of passage reading Mills and Boon publications and Barbara Cartland’s novels. Tacky as they seem today, I firmly believe these books increased my vocabulary. ‘The tension in the room was so thick it could be cut into a slice’ or ‘He shook her by the shoulder and his harsh words sliced through the heady...something… something… ‘ . Embarrassing, but this was a real slice of my life!

The ‘manga cundy’, which is how a Belgaum ice cream parlour spelt ‘mango candy’ in Marathi on its menu card and A-board, was our favourite treat as a newly wedded couple with limited means. This was a great VFM - real home churned Alphonso mango ice cream served in triangular slices crusted with a biscuit wafer, all for just Rs. 2.50. To this day we associate this lovely slice served with bits of chopped mango with our first efforts as a couple to manage finances within our budget!

Somewhere down the track I learnt to add refreshing slices of lemon in the pitcher of cool water. The idea was so exotic and felt posh! And did I tell you I get teased for my antics, verbal and non-verbal, trying to explain to waiters in Indian restaurants even in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Seoul, Makati City or Tokyo, how I like the juicy and crunchy slices of onions.  I have to devise ways to explain that I would like ‘just a few thin slices of a small red onion (don’t waste a whole onion and don’t charge me for a whole salad) no chaat masala and no green chillies’. I may be the only patron in the annals of restaurant history to ask for a doggie bag of an almost plateful of perfectly fine onion slices- such a pity they would be trashed by the restaurant, but more insidiously, what if they aren’t !!

For years now, a breakfast of a slice of madeira or fruit cake with tea is my fond indulgence especially during Christmas holidays. However, not all slices meet the expectation I have of this word. Some slices are remembered only because of their imminent forgettableness. The vanilla slice in the old English style tea rooms, Miss Marple’s Tea Room or the Pig and the Whistle on Mount Dandy sounds and looks nicer than it tastes. I fell only the first time for the vegetable slice, drying and curling on the corners from hours of neglect in the hot bain marie and served with a flourish on knowing I am a vegetarian.

Back to ‘vangyaachey kaap’ – how shall I describe this dish? The word 'kaap' means cut (verb) as well as slice (noun) in Marathi. Therefore, I think a verbing noun like ‘slice’ is most apt. A unique slice of eggplant dredged in spice! So eggplant slice it shall be!

Eggplant Slice or Vaangyachey Kaap


1 large Italian eggplant cut into thin round slices

1 cup besan (gram flour) – ¾ cup

¼ cup rice flour

2 tablespoons bread crumbs (optional- you could also use semolina)

1 tsp red chilli powder (or more)

¼ tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp garam masala powder

A pinch of ajwain powder (or dried oregano)

A pinch of hing 

Salt to taste

Oil for shallow frying.


Keep the slices of eggplant immersed in water. In a shallow bowl or a deep plate mix the flours, bread crumbs, spices and salt.

This mixture has to be kept dry. Drain the eggplant slices on kitchen paper and dredge each slice in the dry spiced flour mixture. Press the slice firmly into the mixture on each side to ensure the flour coats both the sides of the slice. Heat a pan and pour a little oil. Place a dredged slice on the pan.

Repeat this with each slice until the surface of the pan is filled. Shallow fry the slices on one side. You may want to press the slices with a flat spatula to let out the moisture so that the slices take up less oil to cook. Flip the slices over and pour a little more oil. Make sure each slice gets its fair share of oil to turn a uniform golden brown. Remove on kitchen paper and repeat with the remaining slices.

Serve hot as a side with a meal or as a snack with hot tea!


  1. eggplant is one of my favorites !!!I would love to try this recipe sometime :-)

  2. Thank you! :) Do let me know how it turned out!

  3. I came searching for this recipe and find I did! I had read this part on the Indian Food Freak page on facebook. Couldn't try it then. But today is a cold german summer evening and I suddenly got this craving to have podi(that is what they call this in coastal kannada region). Thanks a ton for the recipe. Can't wait to get started!

    1. Vinay, I hope this recipe gave you a much deserved slice of warmth! Do tell me how the podi turned out! :)


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