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Mike Wolfberg's Recipe for Bagara Bengan - Eggplant Curry

This is one of a dozen recipes developed by Mike for a Concord/Carlisle Massachusetts Newcomers Gourmet Group dinner which took place on 1-Mar-75.

(Approximate preparation time: 1 3/4 hours)


  1. Bring 1 c. water to a boil. Break the piece of tamarind into several small pieces and put them into a small bowl. Add the boiling water and poke the tamarind down to submerge it. Let it soak for 30-45 minutes while making further preparations.
  2. Wash the eggplant and slice off the stem, but do not remove the purple skin, except to cut away any soft brown spots. Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise. Place one half of the eggplant flat side down and make 6 to 8 lengthwise slices about 5/8" apart, except the two end slices should be about 1/4" from the edge. The lay these slices flat side down and cut each of them 1 to 3 times lengthwise, to yield bars with about a 5/8" square cross-section. This yields 14 to 20 bars.
  3. Set up the broiler so the top of the broiler pan will be about 5" from the heating source. Preheat the broiler.
  4. Place the bars on the broiler pan. Using a pastry brush, paint the top of each bar with a thin coat of corn oil. Broil the eggplant bars for 5 minutes. While broiling, cut the other eggplant half into bars; then use further slack time to get a head start on step 8. If the bars turn golden brown sooner, stop broiling and go to the next step.
  5. Remove the broiler pan and turn each bar over. Paint the top of each bar with oil and return the pan to the broiler to broil for another 4 minutes. If the bars turn golden brown sooner, stop broiling and go to the next step.
  6. Remove the broiler pan, and place the bars on a plate. Repeat the broiling for the other half of the bars (steps 4 and 5).
  7. Cut each of the bars once (or twice for a long eggplant) to yield about 3" long, and set aside.
  8. Combine the ground hot red pepper, coconut, and turmeric in a small dish so that it is ready to use in step 16.
  9. Place the sesame seeds into a plastic bag, and crush them with a rolling pin or mallet. A mortar and pestle can instead be used for this crushing operation. Set the crushed seeds aside for use in step 17.
  10. Thinly slice the onions by first cutting each peeled onion in half lengthwise, then cutting away the stem area with V-notch, and then thinly slicing each half lengthwise with the flat side down. Set the sliced onions aside for use in step 13.
  11. Handle the chilies with care - see the note Handling Chilies. Wash, deseed, and very finely chop the fresh green chilies to yield about 1 TBL. Set the chilies aside for use in step 15.
  12. Once the tamarind has soaked for at least 30 minutes and softened, prepare tamarind "juice" by straining the tamarind and it soaking liquid into a bowl through a food mill or fine sieve. If you find any pits, discard them immediately. Press down on the stringy pulp to extract as much as possible before discarding the pulp. (You should be discarding very little pulp.) Set the juice aside for use in step 17.
  13. In a 10"-12" frying pan which can be covered, heat the ghee over moderate heat until a drop of water flicked into it sputters instantly. Add the sliced onions and stir, sprinkle with salt, and fry for about 5 minutes until they are soft. Stir occasionally, but meanwhile go on to the next step.
  14. Peel the garlic, cut the cloves in half lengthwise, and crush them with a mallet or the flat edge of a knife. Set the crushed garlic aside for use in step 16.
  15. When the onions are soft, thoroughly stir in the ground coriander and the chopped green chilies. Fry this for 2 minutes, stirring constantly - STAND BACK TO AVOID BREATHING THE FUMES! Adjust the heat to between medium and medium-high so the onions don't burn, but so the spices get to be fried in this and the next step (to bring out their flavors).
  16. Add the crushed garlic to the frying pan along with the spices in the small dish (from step 8). Add tsp. of water and fry for another 3 minutes, stirring constantly, or less if the onions start to burn. Again, pay attention to frying the spices.
  17. Reduce the heat to low, and stir the tamarind juice and molasses into the pan. Sprinkle in the crushed sesame seeds, and stir thoroughly. Gently fold the eggplant bars into the mixture. Cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes while going on to the next step.
  18. Thoroughly finely crumble the neem leaves. In a small frying pan (which has a cover) place the mustard oil over low heat. Stir in the crumbled neem leaves and the black mustard seeds. Cover the pan and shake it occasionally; as the oil heats up, the seeds will pop and spatter. When they have stopped spattering, remove the pan from the heat.
  19. After the eggplant has cooked for 5 minutes, gently stir the fried leaves and seeds, along with their frying oil into the eggplant mixture in the large frying pan. Remove from the heat, and empty the mixture into an ovenware serving dish, cover and set aside. There is no need to refrigerate the dish when it is being served the same day.

To serve: Place the eggplant curry (covered) in a 350° oven for 20 minutes (along with the pork vindaloo). Gently stir and serve.

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