Out of all the diverse cuisines available on a platter in India, Bengali cuisine features in my list of top 3 favourites. The spices they use, and the resultant dishes produced are unlike other Indian dishes, and quite frankly, no less than wow-za.
There is a really good Bengali restaurant here in Singapore, called Mustard. My dear Bong friend and I hop over there for lunches whenever we have those sudden bursts of cravings. Dishes we order are usually standard; we absolutely HAVE to have the koraishutir kochuri (puffed bread stuffed with mashed peas filling, flavoured with fennel seeds and ginger), begun bhaja (shallow fried marinated slices of aubergines), dhokar dalna (lentil cakes soaked in a Bengali style curry) with steamed rice, luchi (deep friend puffed bread) and mishti doi (sweet yoghurt). And we make it a point to order one dish that we haven’t tried from the menu before.
Last year, during Navratri, the restaurant had a few items specially being made during the festival. One of it was shorshe begun, which is aubergines cooked in a pungent mustard and yoghurt-base gravy.
I’m not really a ‘mustard’ fan (ironic, given that I have a liking for Bengali food), but this particular dish blew my mind off.
The aubergines melted in my mouth as soon as I bit into it. And the pungency of the mustard was ever so balanced by the creamy yogurt. It actually ranked equal to my dhokar dalna, which is my favourite most dish in the restaurant.
So last week I went to Mustard again, after a long time, just to have shorshe begun. But alas, to my dismay, I was told that the item was not a regular on their menu.
No amount of luchis or dokar dalna I ate in compensation made up for that pang I was having for those god-gifted mustardy aubergines.
Which is what led me to trying out the dish myself. The original recipe calls for a good amount of poppy seeds (another prominent ingredient in Bengali cuisine). Unfortunately, it is not easily available here in Singapore, so I compensated with coconut instead. And hey, the resultant dish was uh-may-zing !
No kidding. Go buy aubergines from the nearest supermarket and try it out !
[Recipe adapted from: Bong Mom’s cookbook]
- Mustard seeds: 4 tbsp (soaked in 1/4 cup water)
- Fresh coconut: 2 tbsp
- Green chilli: 2
- Cilantro: 2 cups
- Yoghurt: 4-5 tsp
- Water: 2-3 tbsp
- Aubergine: 1 medium sized
- Turmeric powder: 2 tbsp
- Salt: to taste
- Oil: Preferably mustard oil, else any vegetable oil
- Blitz all ingredients except aubergine, turmeric, salt and oil into a smooth paste
- Keep aside
- Slice aubergines into longitudinal slices
- Smear both sides of each aubergine slice with a good sprinkling of turmeric and salt
- Keep aside for 5-7 minutes
- Heat oil in a pan and fry the aubergine slices till both sides are evenly brown and cooked
- Place the cooked slices on absorbing paper to remove excess oil:
- Return pan to flame and add more oil (if needed), to cook the gravy
- Add the mustard paste and adequate water to make it a semi-thickened gravy
- Allow it boil and subsequently lower the flame for the gravy to simmer
- Cook till the gravy thickens and the mustard aroma becomes prominent
- Add little salt (don’t add too much since the aubergines are salted already)
- Add red chilli powder for an extra spicy kick, if desired
- Add the aubergine slices gently and toss carefully to ensure it is well coated
- Cook for another 3-4 minutes and switch off flame
- Cover the pan for at least 30 minutes to let the flavours blend well
- Serve hot with plain rice and ghee