Monday, December 14, 2009

Making Grey Colourful

It's a mystifying name to an person like me with no special knowledge of a language's etymology. Vankai Bajji is mashed brinjal, in a language where 'bajji'usually denotes a vegetable coated in batter and deep-fried. Perhaps it borrows from 'bhaji', which means a vegetable preparation? What it actually is, is a 'bharta', but a rather unorthodox one, influenced by idle musings on Mediterranean cuisine, a need to put two fat brinjals to use and not have to use much oil in the process.

The brinjal is roasted. The rest of it is all raw. The traditional bajji is made by adding tamarind extract, jaggery and chopped green chillies to the peeled and mashed brinjal (after due checks for any worms that might have suffocated to death). You can temper it if you like.

I didn't intend mine to have any tamarind, I was curious to see how it would taste with lime juice and the old, hard limes drying in the refrigerator came in handy. The knob on my grinder was set to maximum from a previous whizzing, and my mash turned into a homogeneous paste. To give it texture, I added some raw onion (also a component of its traditional cousin) and some red capsicum/pepper, just to be contrary.

I almost didn't want to taste it myself after that step, but I told myself not to be a coward, and went ahead, and I couldn't stop. The red capsicum added not only some crunch but a crisp, fresh, taste, and with the onion, a hint of sweetness. I even smeared it on a khakhra and had it for a snack.

Here's how you go about it:

'Giant' brinjals/aubergine/eggplant: 2 (to make about 2-2.5 cups of pulp)
Garlic: 6-8 cloves, peeled
Green chillies: 4-5, slit
Lime juice: 2-3 tsp
Red capsicum/pepper: 1, chopped
Onion: 1/2-3/4 cup, chopped
Oil: 2 tsp - to smear the brinjal, roast the green chillies and to temper
Mustard seed: 1 tsp
Cumin: 1/2 tsp
Split and hulled urad dal: 1-2 tsp
Salt: To taste
Coriander: To garnish liberally

Coat the brinjals with just a little oil and roast them on the burner till they are charred all over. (I have some kind of a perforated plate on which I place the brinjals so that the skin doesn't clog the holes on the burner. Alternatively, you can grill them too.)

Let them cool down and peel them or put them under the tap - the skin will come away easily. Discard the skin.

Roast the green chillies in some of the oil.

Check for worms and if you find some, decide whether you feel like continuing with the whole thing. If you're not gonna let some spoilsport worms get the better of you, continue reading.

Put the brinjal flesh, salt, green chillies and garlic in the grinder and whiz to a smooth paste.

Add the lime juice, red capsicum and raw onion.

Heat the remaining oil and temper the mustard seed, cumin and urad dal in it, in that order. When the dal begins to turn brown, turn off the fire.

Use it as dip, chutney, mix it with curds, or like I did, main meal out of a bowl!

I am sending this off to Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Haalo.


  1. I am glad you were not a coward and tasted them, if you didn't you would have sure missed out.

  2. Sra,
    I like the addition of red bell peppers , I like it with rotis as main meal too :)...
    hugs and smiles

  3. Incidentally, bajji is used for a dish with this consistency in Konkani also:

  4. I too learned that bajji meant a mashed up preparation of a vegetable. This way of making brinjal always reminds me off home but I rarely get around to doing it. Can't find any good brinjals here in winter.

  5. Totally confused with nomenclature. We make a bharta like this too

  6. You have made the grey colourful... :) The red bell peppers must give it a nice crunch and I like the idea of using it as a dip of khakras.

  7. my family is not much of an aubergine fan..but its my fav veggie..this sounds flavourful..and filling

  8. Bhaji/ bajji -- what's in a name as long as the dish tastes good. You are a brave girl Sra, for tasting it even though it didn't taste that good. I just might be brave enough to try your version of baba ganoush, influenced by your "idle musings on Mediterranean cuisine".

  9. Ooh, its raw? I remember my granny doing something like this with curd and calling it eggplant pachidi.

    But I think my mom in law does something like this!

  10. Happy, yeah, it was a good experience!
    Jaya, never tried it with rotis
    Raaga, I just looked at your post - ridge gourd in curds is new to me, though we routinely make snake gourd chutney with gourd
    Indo, now seems to be the season here for big brinjals.
    Bong Mom, it IS bharta - I was saying this dish is called bajji in Telugu tho' bajji usually means fritters
    Laavanya, yes, and the red pepper was not even that fresh, you know, it was so juicy, still!
    S, it is all of that - I never ate brinjals till my late teens, I think
    Jaya, oh, it was good, just the thought of it put me off, initially.
    A&N, it's not raw - the roasting cooks the brinjal flesh. Then the rest of the stuff is raw, if you don't count the roasted green chillies and tempering.

  11. Sounds like a great dip!

  12. Few years back, when I first heard of vankai bhajji I thought of onion bajji :) Different way of eating this purple beauty!

  13. So, did you find any worms in the brinjal???

  14. A lovely tangy creamy crunchy dip...Sra I love the idea as a dip. Khakra's with this dip should have tasted heavely. I was hesitating to test this recipe when read it somewhere because of the raw tamarind. our lime juice looks encouraging! Will give a try soon!

  15. Divya, it is, I'm not sure how it will taste with veggies, though!
    Cham, it's quite an ancient recipe, dunno how it got the name.
    Jayashree, no, I scrutinise the brinjals v carefully when I buy them - not that it always helps but minimises the chances
    Ni, the raw tamarind is not a bad idea, I've eaten it many times, it doesn't taste raw at all. We even make an uncooked rasam with it.

  16. Grey is a difficult neutral color to reconcile. It has this annoying ability to suck the life out of any neighboring hue, yet you've managed to get the best of it. Sounds, and looks, delicious.


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