An Ode to the Eggplant: Bharleli Vangi

This might sound repetitious to someone who’s been on this blog before, but I am one die-hard devotee of the almighty Vegetable. I could eat veggies for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert (I kid you not!) and any time in between. In fact, I’ve never met a veggie I did not love.

Even so, if there was one that I had to pick over all others – you know, the only vegetable left on earth and so on- it would be, hands down, the eggplant.

I know there are people out there who find the eggplant detestable, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s lovely but demented (in my opinion) heroine Fermina Daza who would rather sacrifice love than eat this veggie. The most common mistake that leads to the undeserved labeling of the eggplant as abominable is undercooking it. Undercooked eggplant is bitter and has a chewy (not in a good way) texture that no one in their right minds would enjoy.

But treat the eggplant right, and it will reward you with a sweet creaminess that’s other-worldly and beyond gorgeous.

What’s better, there are so many varieties of eggplant out there, from the small, egg-shaped ones to the slender Italian versions to the huge, globular one most commonly available in supermarkets. Then there are white eggplants, little green-and-white ones, and the pale lilac ones. Each of these varieties differ in taste and texture. All, without exception, are delicious.

Today, I want to share with you one of most favorite eggplant treats- Bharleli Vangi, or, translated from Marathi, Stuffed Eggplant.

Now Bharleli Vangi is traditionally prepared with the small, globe-like purple eggplants that are abundantly available in India and can be found at Indian groceries here. Those are the size easiest to stuff and serve, and believe me, they are delicious. But as my luck should have it, I rarely find decently fresh baby eggplants at my local Indian grocery store.

This past week, I found these beauties at my neighborhood Whole Foods. I have no idea what they are called, but you can see for yourselves: they are about four inches long and about two-and-a-half inches in diameter.


They were also shiny and purple and fresh. I picked up three and brought them home, hoping to come up with an extra-special recipe that would do them justice. My mind kept running to Bharleli Vangi, despite the fact that this was just not the right variety of eggplant for this dish.

Finally, I caved in, and was glad I did. The result was wonderful. The eggplant, cooked over slow heat, turned out incredibly tender and delicious. I cooked the stuffed eggplants over a bed of potatoes, because eggplant and potatoes are a match made in tastebud heaven and because the potatoes caramelize beautifully with the juices from the eggplant.

So here it is, my recipe for Bharleli Vangi, a classic Maharashtrian dish that I absolutely love and adore. This dish is perfect served with some plain dal, like a varan, or with soft chapatis.

Bharleli Vangi

Ingredients

3 eggplants (about 4 inches in length) or 6 small, egg-shaped ones. Wash and dry the eggplants and then, with a sharp knife, make three deep cuts all the way across the diameter of the eggplant and almost, but not quite, all the way down to the stem end.
Remember, it is important that the slices do not separate because you want to stuff the eggplants.

2 yellow potatoes, cut into long, thin strips (as for French fries).

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 tbsp canola oil

1 tsp sugar

For the stuffing:

1/4 cup coconut shreds

2 tbsp jaggery

3 tbsp peanuts, lightly toasted

1 tsp coriander, 1 tsp sesame seeds and 1 tsp black peppercorns, lightly toasted and powdered

2 green chilies

3 tsp chopped coriander leaves

Salt to taste

Put all the ingredients for the stuffing into a food processor and process, adding about 1 tbsp of oil if needed, into a coarse powder.

Divide the stuffing into three (or six if using smaller eggplants) portions, and stuff between the petals of each eggplant. Be gentle. You don’t want to break the eggplant.

In a skillet, heat the oil. Add the onions and saute for two minutes until translucent. Add the sugar and some salt to taste.

Add the potatoes and stir fry for another two minutes until they begin to tenderize.

Now place the stuffed eggplants gently on the bed of potatoes. Cover with a tight-fitting lid.

Let the eggplants cook on slow heat for about 30 minutes. Stir gently a couple of times so the potatoes don’t burn and turn the eggplants a few times (tongs work best for this) to ensure they cook evenly.

Pierce the end just above the stem with a fork or skewer to check doneness. If it goes through without any effort, take it off the fire.

Garnish, if desired, with fresh cilantro or mint.

Serve hot.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

14 thoughts on “An Ode to the Eggplant: Bharleli Vangi

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Paulina

    July 17, 2008 at 7:32pm

    I love eggplant too, but I usually don’t know how to prepare it. Sometimes I end up throwing it in a stir-fry and it comes out tasting okay.

  2. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Cham

    July 17, 2008 at 9:45pm

    Beautiful post about eggplant, i love this eggplant in any form. Another delicious recipe Vaishu.

  3. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Madhavi

    July 17, 2008 at 10:47pm

    Awesome, and delicious dish Vaishali, I am not fan of eggplant but my DH love it so will try soon!!!

  4. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Meera

    July 18, 2008 at 12:22am

    I just love bharli vangi. Thanks for reminding.

  5. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Madhuram

    July 18, 2008 at 3:11am

    I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of eggplants. But the way you have written is really enticing enough to try this dish. I think the stuffing alone can be had as a side dish. The stuffed eggplants look very good.

  6. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Shreya

    July 18, 2008 at 9:28am

    Vaishali, I love that picture! It is so true, what you say about undercooked eggplants. Great stuffing:-)

  7. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    alka

    July 18, 2008 at 9:38am

    Wow,the brinjals with this stuffing surely wud be treat for brinjal lovers(include me in that too)
    Had never made brinjals with this sort of stuffing ,and will love to give it a shot soon
    Gr8 presentation and lovely recipe

  8. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Richa

    July 18, 2008 at 3:22pm

    can’t go wrong with that stuffing!
    i’m planning to cook with fresh vangi from my kitchen garden over the wknd :)

  9. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Vaishali

    July 18, 2008 at 7:41pm

    Paulina, eggplant in a stir-fry sounds great.

    Divya, Cham, Chocolatecoveredvegan, liv2cook: Thanks.

    Madhavi: Thanks. I hope you’ll try it.

    Meera, Thanks.

    Madhuram: You’re right. The stuffing is quite delicious on its own.

    Shreya, Alka: Thanks, ladies.

    Richa, How lovely! My eggplant plants (that sounds funny doesn’t it?) are yet to give any fruit. I am envious!

  10. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Miri

    August 4, 2008 at 7:42am

    I love brinjal in all its forms (drooled over the vangi bhath!) and always wondered why people detest it…many people told me its because of its slimy (WHAT???) texture…sigh – the stuffed brinjal looks yummy!

  11. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Bottle Masala

    May 26, 2010 at 7:33am

    I just stumbled upon your blog as I was searching for something online. All I can say is FANTASTIC! I love the recipes as well as the pics that go with the recipes.
    I am a confirmed fan!

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