Aubergine, brinjal, eggplant, guinea squash, melanzana..

Aubergine, brinjal, eggplant, guinea squash, melanzana..

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Alas, despite being cloaked in a glossy purple, regal exterior, the eggplant belies Shakespeare’s adage by collapsing into a colorless, stringy amorphous mess when cooked. Little wonder that many blanch at the sight of limp, congealed offerings and never learn to appreciate the lusciously mild, creamy flesh that begs to be flavored with exotic spices.

A member of the nightshade family ( Solanaceae ), the seeds of an eggplant have a bitter taste, being loaded with nicotinic alkaloids as does its close relative tobacco. Folk wisdom dictates that “male” eggplants have fewer seeds than “female” eggplants. According to one source, “To sex an eggplant, look at the indentation at bottom. If it’s deep and shaped like a dash, it’s a female. If it’s shallow and round, it’s a male.” That description gives new meaning to the phrase “food porn”.

Is it true that the female of the species is more bitter than the male? To get to the botanical bottom of all this, and for step-by-step instructions to make Baingan bharta, a roasted eggplant spread, visit madamescientist.

This entry was posted in Rajini Rao. Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Aubergine, brinjal, eggplant, guinea squash, melanzana..

  1. Begun vorta yum!!! 🙂

  2. Smut! [abuse reported;]

  3. Rajini Rao says:

    LOL, Marc Ponomareff , I explain why I decline to peer at my vegetable’s privates in my blog 😉

  4. Jaz Emminger says:

    You cook me some Indian food and I’ll cook you some Filipino food gorgeous!

  5. Rich Pollett says:

    Very nice, now I’m hungry again. It looks delicious and I enjoyed how you worked Shakespeare in to this. 🙂

  6. Rajini Rao says:

    Deal, Jaz Emminger 🙂 Rich Pollett , what good is Shakespeare if one cannot randomly (and inappropriately) insert into everyday conversation?

  7. Rajini Rao my mom used to make this with bbq eggplant, it added a smoky flavor. Loved it when I was young.

  8. It seems delicious! I had never heard the noun brinjal before, but it sounded to me like it had the same origin as the Portuguese term for eggplant, berinjela. Apparently it has! Brinjal came into English from the Arabic via Portuguese!

  9. Romeo and Juliet: Act 4, Scene 2

    Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.

  10. Rajini Rao says:

    Mohammad Khan , yes..the traditional way is to smoke the baingan over an open flame. The flavor is more intense that way.

    João Figueiredo , I had heard of that too! It must have come via Afghanistan because there it is called badenjan or banjan.

  11. I love eggplant/aubergine because it is such a versatile. vegetable

  12. Matt Burkey says:

    I’ve tried eggplant. It’s okay. Rather use other veg.

  13. Rajini Rao says:

    Thank you, Shinae Nae – you rule as the foodie queen in my circles!

  14. Rajini Rao says:

    Arpit Srivastava , exactly why the bharta has to be blended and mixed in with all the spices. No sign of strings or slime, honest!! I make the stuffed ones too, with the little brinjals and fresh coconut in the filling. That’s for another time 🙂

  15. Jeffrey Lan says:

    oh, i grew up in a town with a large Indian community and this makes me homesick! easily one of my favorite dishes.

  16. Kerri Sharp says:

    wow, crazy info!! very nice.

  17. RAY CHAPA says:

    Thanks for the information, always helpful.

  18. Excellent purple prose! No, no — excellent prose about the purple thingy! Read somewhere that there is the variation of the bharta all over the world. And I suppose the same would hold true for the aubergine fritter! Also, it is interesting how Baigan Bharta would inherently taste different in different parts of the world — not to forget the variations from household to household and restaurant to restaurant.

  19. Madame scientists — any ideas how to get a smokey taste in all dishes? In the BB it is mostly the direct roasting over fire. Let us say you want the smokey taste in a veg kurma: how would you get it? Thanks in advance.

  20. Rajini Rao says: Gurudutt Kamath , this site lists a few ideas. Apparently, one can purchase bottled (natural) smoke flavor, but I have not tried it! Some spices have a natural smoky could dry roast cumin seeds, or chilli powder (ventilate! or you’ll have a coughing fit). Chipotle chillies from Mexico are smoked, they are not used in Indian cooking but they have a really nice flavor so I don’t see why they can’t be substituted.

  21. ive never had eggplant before… is it good?

  22. Kapil Ranade says:

    Dr Rajini Rao – there are several versions of baingan bharta; one with natural yoghurt and grated coconut that the matriarch likes; one with finely chopped onions and turmeric mustard-seed tadka which I am fond of!! The matriarch says that baingan bharta tastes best if the baingan is roasted over charcoal or firewood embers though I’ve never eaten those.

    The one you have portrayed above sounds like the one we get at Crystal at Charni Road. Unless you have now grown a sensitive American stomach, you should make it a point to try lunch at Crystal when you visit Bombay. Baingan bharta and paneer bhurjee with hot parathas or tawa rotis topped up with chas and chilled kheer for dessert. Such a meal for 3 (2 adults and 1 child) last year cost me the princely sum of ₹140 about US$ 4.30 at then conversion rates!!

  23. Rajani-ji, I like the bharta as my grandma made.

    Roast baingan,

    Skin it,

    Mash it but not too much. Keep some chunks.

    Then, chop onion, green Chile and coriander finely.

    Soak tamarind and extract juice.

    Add some salt and jagery. Mix together.

    Let it sit for 20 mins so that all things mix nicely.

    If you know what is bhakari, eat with it.

    If you try let me know how it came out.

  24. All I ever wanted to know about the eggplant 🙂

    Very interesting, and tasty post!

  25. Sabin Iacob says:

    Not sure about other countries, but in Romania we have something similar (albeit simpler):

    * roast the eggplant on a hot plate

    * skin it

    * mash it (there is a wooden tool that looks like a meat cleaver for this)

    * add oil, chopped raw onions, mix well

    this is where you can stop and how I like it, but some people find it too acidic, so they move on to

    * add mayonnaise

    best eaten spread on a loaf of bread or toast, with fresh tomato slices on top 😉 (as long as tomatoes are grown locally, during the winter we can only find ones from Spain and Turkey and Estonia (!) and they all taste like paper)

  26. Sounds lovely, will give this a try.

  27. Rajini Rao says:

    Thanks for all the variations! I’ve made the version with yogurt, but not tried mayonnaise (Sabin Iacob) ..both would make for a milder, creamier dish. Kapil Ranade and mandar khadilkar , the Marathi versions are not that different from the southern Indian recipes, particularly from Karnataka (where I’m originally from)…we also use tamarind extract and fresh chopped onions in “gojji”. For those who need a translation, jaggery is a solid, unrefined form of sugar that is common in southern/central half of India. It can have wonderful flavor, in addition to the sweet taste.

  28. dora chiabov says:

    Buona, è una purée di melanzane.

  29. Tom Lee says:

    That dish looks good. Save some for me I will drop in on my next business trip to your neigborhood. This is interesting: Folk wisdom dictates that “male” eggplants have fewer seeds than “female” eggplants. According to one source, “To sex an eggplant, look at the indentation at bottom. If it’s deep and shaped like a dash, it’s a female. If it’s shallow and round, it’s a male.”

    Can we just cook either the male or female eggplants? I am just wondering if they taste dirrently? o_o

  30. Rajini Rao says:

    I’ll ship you some any time, Tom Lee 🙂 Folk wisdom lacked botanical knowledge, evidently. Eggplants are fruits and fruits are genderless: turns out that they are neither male nor female 😉 So much for that theory! Why their bottoms are different is anybody’s guess. Not that I would be rude enough to examine them publicly, lol.

  31. Tom Lee says:

    I was wondering that about male and female fruits. Kinda funny the way the folk wisdom put it. Fruits don’t move, so no need to distinguish. lol. Thanks for the offer. Really, that dish looks good. I love eggplants, especially if you make it hot and spicy!.:)

  32. Rajini Rao says:

    Botanically, Tom Lee , flowers have gender, but not fruits. I grow zucchini in my garden and the first set of flowers are male, so they are no good (i.e., they are not going to become zucchini!). Although you can fry the male blossoms 🙂 After a while, the female ones appear. Most flowers are hermaphrodites. Sorry for the botany lecture but that was one of my majors long ago!

    I love hot and spicy food too! So when are we going to see pix of your French concoctions? 🙂

  33. Tom Lee says:

    Thanks. Good information!

    I love hot and spicy food, Thai, Indian, Korean, Chinese…Frech food are more and creamy, buttery with wines. Will let you know when I cook some French. 🙂

  34. ANKUR SHARMA says:

    Love this post, Rajini! Colorful, descriptive, informative. This looks delicious.

  35. TWE says:

    Wow- So much wonderful looking food.

  36. Seema YJ says:

    hey rajini pls give me receipe of DABELI

  37. Seema YJ nice friends

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s