What is this? Begun means Eggplant or Brinjal or Aubergine. You choose the English name that you use at your place! Bhaja means fried dish. Begun Bhaja is deep-fried Eggplant! Plumpy and moist inside and has an amber coloured crusty texture on the top. A humble dish that appears almost every week in Bengali meals, when markets in Bengal are flooded with Eggplants in season! And yes, we call it Eggplant here in Australia!
What is Bhaja?
Anything pan-fried, deep-fried are called Bhaja or Bhajabhuji. There are various types of Bhaja in Bengali cooking. For example, Bengali Panch Bhaja often serves as a second course in an elaborate Bengali lunch menu. Five different kinds of vegetables are cut into the desired shape, then rub with salt, turmeric powder, and deep fry over medium heat. Begun Bhaja is often made as a part of Panch Bhaja.
There are few points to remember to make perfect bhaja-
Bhaja tastes better when deep-fried. If you try to do pan fry, the veggies become soggy and absorb more oil. In my opinion, it’s an offence! Don’t make Bhaja frequently, but please opt for deep frying when you plan to make it.
And, yes, make sure do not overcrowd the pan. It is always recommended to make Bhaja in batches over medium heat or sometimes over low heat. Because if you add too many veggies at a time, they will become soggy due to lack of space.
What goes in Begun Bhaja?
Eggplant- A large yet fresh soft Eggplant is the decisive ingredient for this dish. If you buy an Eggplant or Aubergine with lots of seeds inside, which is a female eggplant, that will ruin the dish’s taste. Male Eggplant has fewer seeds, a small round smooth end! That’s why it has and less bitter taste.
Mustard oil- It is one of the secret beauties of Bengali cooking.
Turmeric- This spice has an excellent reputation for preventing many diseases and adds beautiful colour to a dish. And probably, this is one of the reasons that from ancient times turmeric has been regularly used in South-East Asian cooking.
Red Chilli powder- Eggplant is a blank spongy canvas, so we need to add taste to it. And a little bit of kick of chilli makes every dish inviting.
Salt and Sugar- The seasoning duo! None of the dish worth tasting without their presence.
How to make Begun Bhaja?
The most straightforward answer is- There are many ways we can cut Eggplant to make Begun Bhaja. For example, lengthwise into four pieces, which is called lomba begun bhaja. But, most of the time, I make Chaka Kata Begun Bhaja which means thick round cut like a wheel. One more thing to mention! No shallow frying or Tawa frying, please! It will kill the beauty of the dish! Though you can opt for pan-frying, my personal favourite is deep-frying! I know Eggplant absorbs a lot more oil than other vegetables. And it’s okay! Don’t make it frequently, but when you make it the traditional way.
- Cut the Eggplant to your desired shape, then smear salt, sugar, turmeric powder, red chilli to the eggplant pieces and keep them aside.
- Heat mustard oil for deep frying. Drop the Eggplant pieces and fry them over medium heat. It shouldn’t take more than 6-7 minutes to fry each batch.
- Remove from oil and serve straight to the plate.
How to serve Begun Bhaja?
Serve as an accompanying with Khichuri. I remember it served in the Bengali wedding or feasting menus with Luchi, Cholar Dal until the early nineties. Luchi, Cholar Dal, Begun Bhaja and Misti(sweet) could be a special breakfast menu for a special feasting occasion. Porota and begun bhaja is also a popular combination in Bengali kitchens!
Typical Bengali lunch served course by course. Mug er Dal on the bed of steaming hot rice and a slice of Begun Bhaja, nothing could beat this humble combination to be the second course of an elaborate bengali lunch menu! But, of course, it could be a simple, satisfying lunch menu for a weekday meal as well! Begunbhaja with Ruti and Gurer Payesh is my favourite winter dinner.
If you cook this dish, please share in the comment section what you serve with it!