Tuesday, 30 October 2012

My very own Salata Aswad be Zabadi

Vangyachey Bharit- Eggplant Bharta with Peanuts and Yoghurt

For a long time the only baingan bharta I knew was the Maharashtrian variety with yoghurt. 

Even when exploring Punjabi cuisine in the 70s and 80s, we wouldn’t order a bharta when eating out, which we thought was just like a bharit. It would be akin to ordering chapatis in an Udupi restaurant for us. Moreover, a rustic bharta didn’t stand a chance against exotic and suave (for us in those days) dishes with paneer and malai to feast on.

So - little did I know the difference between the Marathi bharit and the North Indian bharta, and learnt it the hard way, when I turned up at a ‘bring a plate’ potluck party organised by work colleagues with my yoghurt version. I had been asked to bring this dish by people who were - for some reason -  drooling at the idea of eating bharta. 

However, one look at the pale mash and they were all taken aback - one of them even grimaced. They were expecting a Punjabi version of the bharta with lots of tomatoes, capsicum and spices...

No wonder then that the dish fell flat on its face. This version was unheard of, unsightly, and went unappreciated. 

I was the only one who ate the poor bharit that night, although I was angry with it. 

Yes, with the bharit!

Well, I suppose I had no other choice- being the only vegetarian, this was the only dish I could eat. That says something about being minority.

I was also the only one taking my own dish back home, hardly touched. 

For once, I was very, very embarrassed!

The following weekend (much to everyone’s surprise for I generally don't) I mooted the plan to eat out, not Chinese, but Punjabi...

And there are no prizes for guessing what we ordered!

Over time, as awareness of various cuisines of the world spread, I got to know so many more varieties of eggplant salads and dips. 

Nemat, a Sudanese colleague introduced me to a very familiar salad, but from her land. Funnily again at a potluck party, this time at the Technical College in Musannah in Oman where I taught English, I tasted a salad that Nemat had brought.  

The salad had a grand name - Salata Aswad be Zabadi!

Guess what it was made of ? Roasted eggplant, yoghurt, onion, peanuts and spices AND tomatoes AND capsicum!

This salad went out of the way to make me feel vindicated for those few hours of embarrassment.

Back to the bharit - the Marathi Vangyachey Bharit is usually eaten with bajra or jowar rotis (bhakris). Many make it with sautéed onions, but this version with raw onions is more rustic, tastier and richer in texture as the raw onions introduce a crunchy bite and some heat.


2 large bharta (Italian) eggplants, flame roasted, peeled, cut across lengthwise and mashed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon crushed fresh garlic 

1/2 teaspoon crushed green chillies (or more)
1 cup yoghurt (not too sour)
2-3 tablespoons coarsely powdered roasted and peeled peanuts
1 teaspoon cumin powder
Salt to taste
Sugar or sweetener to taste (optional)

For the tempering
1 tablespoon oil
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
A few curry leaves (optional)
1 or 2 whole dry red chillies (or more)

For the garnish
2 tablespoons chopped coriander 
½ teaspoon red chilly powder (or more)

Mix all the ingredients in a suitable bowl. Adjust the taste. Heat oil in a small pan. Add the mustard seeds and red chillies to crackle. Add the curry leaves (optional). Take the pan off the heat and pour it over the bharit. Garnish with chilly powder and Chopped coriander. Serve at room temperature or chilled with bhakris, rotis, phulkas or rice.

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