Native To India

Cutbaingan

Another old post dug out to be published here.  First published on Thursday, December 11, 2008.

I didn’t know that, you know. That the brinjal, or eggplant as it is commonly called in the North American continent is native to India. Well, not a big surprise this is, given that it is such a commonly available and frequently cooked veggie in India.

I cooked some today myself. And so fascinating did I find the lovely bright purple coloring of the small fruit (they’re technically a fruit, you see!), that I couldn’t help but pull out my camera and take a picture!

BTW, these are in water. That’s how my mother taught me to cut and handle eggplant. Always put them into water so they won’t oxidize and turn a dirty grayish-brownish hue.

In India, we get the small variety with the thorns on the stem. These are generally trimmed off and slit right from the top of the stem into halves or fourths without going all the way down the entire egglpant, thereby leaving each one still whole, but with several slits that absorb all the masalas while cooking.

Well, I usually cut them up like that, but today, I decided to take my knife all the way down the length of each one and made nice long slices. Soaking in this lovely stainless-steel tray (new one that I brought back from India this past summer!), they look like the perfect model for a lovely still-life drawing!

I think it was my grandmother who used to say that the brinjal is the king of the vegetables– hmm… I don’t know if I’d argue with her because I gotta say this is one versatile and yummy and a good-for-you veggie that can be made in a multitude of ways.

In Hyderabad, the Bagara Baingan is the traditional sidedish that goes with Biryani. The small ones are used for this: smothered in the most decadent gravy of khuskhus and peanuts and all kinds of garam masala, the baingan look almost too good to eat! But the baingan can also be made in a variety of other more humble ways: I made a simple subzi that has a base of onions, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and some basic masala. Ocassionally, I’ll toss in some potatoes as well, but I didn’t have any today. There are as many themes and variations to making the eggplant as there are differences by region and customs. In the South, it is routinely added to sambar and made into a variety of colombos. πŸ™‚ And beyond India, it is equally popular in other parts of the world as well: in the Middle East, Baba Ghanouj has as its key ingredient– you guessed it: the eggplant. In Italy, Greece, Spain and the rest of the Mediterranean, the eggplant is glorified in all kinds of casseroles and doused with cheese and breadcrumbs and is boiled and baked and even deep-fried.

Well, very interesting it is that the eggplant is native to India. So much India has given to the world! How resourceful its people are to cultivate something good, and then to offer it to the many foreigners who came to its shores so as to allow them to take the seeds back to their own native lands and cultivate it for themselves.

Well, in case you wish to learn more about this wonderful fruit/vegetable, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eggplant

So, like I said, I made some today. Both the before and after pictures are works of art, methinks. πŸ™‚ oh, and that other picture? Well, that’s some yummy dal. Not sambar, now. Just plain dal with some tomatoes and a fantastic tadka. Enjoy!

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