Bharli Vangi or stuffed eggplants are a much-loved delicacy in western India and particularly in the cuisine of Maharashtra. Small, round eggplants/brinjals are stuffed with a spicy coconut-peanut mixture. Serve with rice and dal for the perfect Indian meal.
Last week, browsing through a small but lively farmer's market in Northwest DC with my friend Roshani, I came across some gorgeous little round eggplants: the kind we Maharashtrians use to make Bharli Vangi, or stuffed eggplants.
This is my favorite way to eat eggplants-- and Desi's too. This time I cooked the eggplants in a pressure cooker. This is a technique often used to cook Bharli Vangi and I am not taking credit for devising it, but it's not one I had ever used: instead, I always liked roasting my eggplant in a saucepan on the stovetop so it got a little charred on the outside.
But the pressure-cooker method is less work, frankly, because you don't have to watch and turn the eggplants every few minutes: instead, you can just put everything in and let it all cook by itself. The resulting eggplant, although it doesn't have the slight char that I love, makes up by being absolutely butter-soft, melt-in-the-mouth delicious.
My recipe varies a bit from the traditonal: I use coconut milk instead of shredded coconut because it helps hold the stuffing together. This can also be a healthy substitution because many cooks use oil to keep the stuffing together. I also add some fenugreek seeds because their pleasant bitterness help balance out the sweetness of the jaggery and the spice of the chillies.
Here's the recipe-- it's great with rotis, or with some vegan curd-rice. Enjoy, all!
More vegan vegetable side dishes
Bharli Vangi (Stuffed Eggplants)
- 8 small Indian eggplants (Leave the stems on and make a vertical slit with a sharp knife from the top of the eggplant almost all the way, but not quite, to the stem end. You want the eggplant to remain in one piece. Now turn the eggplant and make another similar cut at a right angle so the eggplant looks like a closed flower bud with four petals.)
- 4 yellow potatoes (ut into wedges)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For the stuffing masala
- Prepare the masala ingredients by heating the oil. Add peanuts, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds and red chili peppers to the pan and saute until the peanuts are a couple of shades darker.
- Place the ingredients in a blender, add the ginger garlic paste, jaggery, turmeric and coconut milk and process into a coarse paste. It should clump together when you press it in your fist, which will make stuffing the eggplants easier.
- Divide the stuffing equally into eight portions and stuff between the petals of each eggplant. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a pressure cooker over medium-high heat.
- Add the potatoes and stir-fry for a couple of minutes or until they start to color slightly.
- Add the eggplants one by one-- place them in a single layer, if possible.
- Add ¾ cup of water to the pressure cooker and sprinkle on some salt for taste (not too much, because there's already salt in the stuffing, but you want a little something for the potatoes).
- Stir the contents of the pressure cooker gently so everything looks well-distributed.
- Click on the pressure cooker lid. My pressure cooker is different from the typical Indian ones that come with a "whistle" that goes off when it reaches pressure. It has a little button that pops up when the cooker reaches pressure. Once it did, I lowered the heat let the eggplant cook for another 10 minutes. If you have the cooker with the whistle, you might need to go through a couple more whistles to get the same result.
- Once the steam inside the pressure cooker has dissipated, open the pressure cooker and garnish the eggplant, if you like, with some coriander.
- Serve hot with dal.