Monday, June 7, 2010

Baigan choka

The Indians brought food, and spices, and new words to add to the multicultural vocabulary. Baigan is melongene or eggplant. Choka is the method of cooking that uses hot oil and spices to sear flavour into the softened vegetable melange. Those who like it hotter can add more fresh pepper!  Today, we bake the melongene in the oven. In the good old days of open fires, the melongenes would be roasted giving the dish a smoky flavour that is distinctive and memorable. Choose full but pliable eggplants: they should have some give when you press your thumb into the skin, the skins should not be hard and shiny.
You can't judge the best baigan by looks: you have to be able to feel them too!

Baigan, two whole
Garlic, 3 cloves
Onion, medium, sliced thinly
Hot pepper, seeds removed and chopped
Olive oil, half cup
Salt, half teaspoon or to taste

Pierce melongene all over with a fork. Put into a hot (350) oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, turning once after about 25 minutes.

Put garlic, onion, hot pepper, olive oil and salt in dish and microwave for two minutes. Otherwise, you can heat the oil in a small pot. Add the onions, garlic, pepper and salt and saute until the onions are translucent and caramelizing. Remove from heat.

When the melongenes are soft (cooked through), remove from the oven and scrape the insides into the oil-onion-garlic mixture. Use a fork to beat the melongene into the oil until it is like a puree.

Serve with pita bread, crix or sada roti.


  1. Ahh!,... I always wondered how they got the eggplant so soft,and mushy. Trying to stir fry or stew them in a pan, they tend to stay a bit stiff. I'll have to try it,as they are in season in Italy at the moment.
    Here they fry them for pasta or stew or sweet and sour them with capers and celery and pine nuts (capunata)....But in all the cooking methods used here, they always purge and drain the sliced eggplant with tons of seasalt first for at least one hour before cooking. This also helps to soften them.

  2. The eggplants that get to your supermarket probably tend to be very "stiff" - the skins very shiny and the inside has a lot of seeds already. You want to choose young but full melongene so that the insides melt when you bake them. Look for smaller "softer" ones - buy them at a farmers market if you get the chance.