Saturday, September 17, 2005

B is for BHENDI FRY and BHARLI VAANGI

This article is part of a special series called "The A-Z of Marathi food". India is the land of diversity. Each of the 28 states in India has a unique cuisine but the Indian food served in restaurants represents only a tiny fraction of our culinary heritage. I come from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Capital: Bombay (Mumbai). Population: 96 million (only 11 countries in the world have a population higher than Maharashtra). Language: Marathi. Traditional Marathi food is earthy and humble, diverse and very tasty. It also remains relatively unknown to non-marathis. Its time to change that. I invite you to join me on an alphabetical culinary tour of my state. We will go through the letters A to Z and make a dish with each letter to show-case Marathi cuisine.

B is for Bhendi Fry and Bharli Vangi
B stands for lots and lots of good Marathi eats: thank you all for giving me awesome suggestions! The highest number of votes went to Bhakri. This is a flatbread made with different flours like bajra (millet) and jowar (sorghum) and patted into shape rather than rolled out. Nutritious and filling, bhakri is the staff of life, especially in rural Maharashtra. I would have loved to try making Bhakri, but shied away from it because I have only an electric range and a stainless steel skillet and doubt if someone without experience can make successful bhakri without the proper pan ("tava"). Maybe someone out there has some bhakri-making tips for me.
Two popular street foods also are "B" words: Batata Vada is a favorite snack and I have already written about it. Bhelpuri is a mixture of fried tit-bits and sweet and spicy chutneys and I am sure to write about this soon. Another favorite "B" is Besan ladoo, a sweet treat made with chickpea flour, sugar and ghee, which I will make for the festival of lights, "Diwali", coming up in a month or so. Finally, some of my favorite vegetables are "B" words: Batata (potato), Bhendi (okra) and Bhopla (pumpkin) to name just three. So what did I finally decide to make? Both dishes on my "B" menu are traditional vegetable preparations. Every family has their favorite recipes, and these are the versions as I remember them.

My first offering is "Bhendi Fry" or okra fry, a family favorite. This is my grandma's recipe, something that my cousins and I really looked forward to during our annual summer visits to grandma's place in Bombay. Aji (grandma in marathi) served this with boiled white rice and plain yellow dal called "Varan". If you are one of those who are grossed out by the sticky slime of okra, this recipe is for you. The final product is crispy and tasty with no sliminess whatsoever. Just make sure the okra is completely dry before you chop it.
Bhendi Fry
Bhendi
makes 2 servings
2 cups chopped okra (wash, dry completely with a kitchen towel and chop fine)
3 tbsp besan (chickpea flour)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
1/4 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp cumin powder
oil for frying
In a bowl, toss together all the ingredients except for the oil. The okra gets a nice coating with the besan and spices. Heat 1/4 inch oil in a skillet and shallow fry the okra, draining it onto paper towels. Serve immediately as a side-dish with plain dal and rice.
Note: "Varan" is made by cooking and mashing toor dal (yellow split peas), adding some salt and curry leaves, then simmering for a minute. The simplicity is deceptive...this dal tastes wonderful.

Next is a very traditional Marathi dish: Bharli Vangi or "Stuffed Eggplant". Almost every cuisine has traditional recipes for stuffed vegetables, and eggplant especially lends itself well to being stuffed in a variety of ways. This Marathi recipe is delicious and easier to make than it sounds. It illustrates the wide use of peanuts and coconuts in Marathi cuisine. If you don't get baby eggplants, I don't see why this recipe could not be adapted to bigger eggplants, slit multiple times and stuffed.
Bharli Vaangi
3-4 servings
6-8 baby eggplants, slit open
stuffed
For stuffing:
2 tbsp dry grated unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup peanuts
2 tsp sesame seeds
3-4 dry red chillies
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
Place all these in a skillet, roast on low heat and grind together to a fine powder. To this powder, add...
2 tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp finely minced onion
salt to taste
Mix together the stuffing, using some water to moisten it if necessary to form a thick paste. Stuff inside the baby eggplants as shown in the picture.
Cooking the eggplants:
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a skillet. Pop 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, add 1/2 cup minced onion, fry till transluscent. Add the baby eggplants and 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook on low heat. Check every few minutes and add some water to the pan if necessary till eggplants are cooked through and onions are golden. Garnish with minced cilantro.

BharliVangi
Bharli vaangi and bhakri is the traditional combo. For people who can make bhakri that is :) I will learn in due course. Meanwhile I hope you will join me when we explore "C" next week. Any guesses for "C"?

29 comments:

  1. Nupur- both look yummy. bTW, I made your previous dal recipe and it turned out delicious. Great recipe series!

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  2. Love this series too Nupur. Haven't made anything yet. I would have to get some ingredients that are not part of my day-to-day pantry contents. One day I'll make some and I'll skimp on the chillies.

    You know, in Portuguese "batata" also means potato.

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  3. Hi Nupur - I'm really enjoying this series as well! I have little to no experience cooking either eggplant or okra, but that Bhendi Fry sounds especially good to me. Tomorrow I'm trying your recipe for Amti - I've gathered all the ingredients and can't wait!

    I have another dumb question about the tamarind paste. Once I open it, how long will it keep in the refrigerator?

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  4. Hi Mika, I'm so glad the amti dal worked out! Thanks for trying it!

    Ana, really, thats so interesting...batata being the same word in marathi and portuguese...because marathi is closely related to hindi and the hindi word for potato is totally different: "aloo"...hmm..thanks for pointing that out!

    Hi Cathy, hope the amti works out well! do taste it and adjust the salt/brown sugar/tamarind balance to suit your taste. thanks for wanting to try it!
    About the tamarind, it will be fine for ages in the refrigerator and even outside at room temperature. don't worry about it. its too acidic for stuff to grow in there.

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  5. thsose eggplants look too damn good. must try em sometime.
    the trifle looks good too . am gonna have to take your word for it being a trifling matter :)

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  6. hi nupur, i shall tell aji that her humble recipe is internationally famous now. its a must at every family gettogether and we never tire munching the crunchy bhende alongwith varat bhat..........now for c....how about chivda and some variety of chutneys. chakli too but its too cumbersome and you need a chakli maker. also chincheche saar, or chutney. chirote , the mouth watering dry mithai, but of course too difficult to make. all the best to you. love, yoma.

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  7. Yum, I love okra! I make it this way too. :)

    Actually I wanted to suggest bhakarwadi for the B but never got around to posting my comment :(

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  8. I love this Bhendi Fry-okra is so popular down here, but is mainly only used in gumbo. I will have to pick some up and try this! I'm loving this series, too. Can't wait for C.....

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  9. Hi Nupur! I happened to visit your blog accidently and am glad that I did. Loved your idea of A-Z of Maharashtrian food. I'm a Maharashtrian and am eagerly looking forward to what recipe you serve us next. C for Chivda, Chakli,Chirote?

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  10. They are mouthwatering Nupur!!!
    Well done :) Love the look of both, if I had of seen this yesterday I would have bought some okra! :(

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  11. Hi Bilbo, thanks for stopping by...and I promise the trifle is real simple :)

    Hi Yoma, yes, do show aji the bhendi fry, she will be quite amused!

    Hi Shammi, now bhakarwadi was one "b" that I never thought about! yummy dish, only its not very easy to make!

    Hi Amy, I have always wanted to try making gumbo...I'm a big fan of okra :)

    Hi Kavs, nice suggestions! hmm..lets see what I can come up with.

    Hi Clare, the okra is a great 10-minute side dish, thanks for stopping by!

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  12. hey nupur, we in Andhra also make something similar with baingan, called Gutti Vankaya or Vankaya Menthi (methi seeds). The filling is different.
    For our filling we use
    Methi seeds 1/4 tsp
    Coriander seeds 3 Tbsp
    Channa dal 2 Tbsp
    Urad dal 1 Tbsp
    Red chilli 4 No.
    Roast these in a pan till golden brown
    and grind them slightly coarse so that the powder is a bit crunchy.
    Dont use jaggery
    and follow the same procedure as your baigan.

    well, i stay very far from Bhendi.

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  13. Hi Nupur, I love this recipe series of yours - I'm learning so many new things. I can't wait for C!

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  14. Hi bottled-imp, thanks for sharing this recipe! Sounds tasty, and fiery like any self-respecting andhra recipe should :) Part of the fun of regional cooking is discovering variations on a theme. I'll let you know when I try this!

    HI Melissa, thanks for the encouraging words and for stopping by :)

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  15. Hi Nupur,

    This is Manisha, from Mumbai. I have so far been a silent reader of your blog... I tried the bhendi fry recipe and it was very good. Husband loved it too. I am a Maharashtrian, and am waiting for your next recipe!

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  16. Hi Manisha, Thanks for letting me know that the bhendi fry worked out well! Stay tuned for many more recipes...

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  17. Hi Nupur,
    In the Turkish cuisine we also make stuffed eggplants but this is an entirely different one. I will try this when eggplant is in season again.
    I'm a vegan so Indian food fits me. Will be visiting your site more often.
    Isil

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  18. Hi,
    I came across this site by pure accident and am I glad. FINALLY - a site that acknowledges that Indian cuisine (like its languages) cannot be generalized. It does go beyond samosas and palak paneer. I am from Bombay too (though originally from Konkan) so love the recipes here. A couple of thoughts -
    * I love trying out new recipes or new ways of making the same dish. So I am always surfing the net, yet the results are not that great. I like the fact that these are 'tried and tested' recipes. My regards to your aji :-)
    * Are you planning to include any non vegetarian dishes? The people from Kolhapur and Alibag have some mean ways of making chicken/ mutton!!
    * Re: an earlier comment regarding batata - the potato is not indigenous to India. It was brought to our country by the Portugese and has (through India's distinct ability to incorporate various influences and still retain its essence) been assimilated into our cooking. Why the North Indians call it aloo is a mystery to me (perhaps bcoz the Portugese colonized and therefore influenced parts of Maharashtra and Goa whereas the Mughals did likewise in the North)

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  19. Nupur,you missed Bhakarwadi:((
    We love it so much that I learnt to make it.(And I'm not a big fan of frying ...the better half is a pro at frying).
    chakli making is not so cumbersome ...I use an icing tube (on the rare occasions that I make chakli!)

    S

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  20. Hi Nupur,made bhindi fry,loved it very much,have posted it on my blog too.

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  21. Hi Nupur,
    Tujha recipe ne keleli bharli vaangi apratim zali hoti. Alele pahune ani navra sagle khushh :-). Hats off to you!!!

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  22. Hi Nupur,

    Your bharli vangi recipe sounds really yum- can't wait to try it. On vangi, do you have any idea how to roast them on stove's with electric elements (instead of the flame kind)? I've been planning to go the bharta way, but stop short at my electric stove!

    Look forward to hear some tips!

    Maya

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  23. Hi Maya,
    I have cooked for years in a kitchen with an electric stove: To make baingan bharta, I would use the oven rather than the stove-top.
    Heat the oven to 375 or so, line a baking sheet with alum. foil. Wash large eggplants, pat dry, halve them and rub the skins with a little oil. Then place cut side down on baking sheet and bake for 40-50 minutes...when a knife slides into the skin easily, take the sheet out. Cool, peel, mash the eggplants as usual. This worked for me :)

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  24. nupur, try to get bhaji receipe (with puri they serve called puri-bhaji) in belagaum, it's unique especially in ajanta and newgrand restuasrant, by the way u r doing terrific job, i am thank ful

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  25. hey nupur!!!!
    i tried your recipe...it turn out to be awesome.... idea of using brown sugar is good... i make it with jaggery .....
    good work
    thanks.....

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  26. Hi Nupur,

    I always one or the other recipes fm ur blog.thanx yaar.u do a gr8 job.ur vaangi bhaat was a hit when i made for dinner when i had friends at home.keep it up..cheerio Neelam

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  27. Hi Nupur, the bharli vangi recipe is great! I almost followed it to the T (something rather uncharacteristic for me ;) )and was delighted with the results - thus the delurking to thank you for such a smashing dinner! - Su

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  28. Hi Nupur,
    Have been a secret follower of your blog for long. Came back today to pickup the bharli vaangi recipe and saw your bhaakri question. I stay in America too and have recently discovered "Gujurati Bhakhri flour" in the Indian stores here. It is soft like normal wheat flour ,the bhakris can be rolled out like normal phulkas, but the texture is a lot like a bhakri. I love this so much now that I use only this flour for making rotis. It's healthier too as it has more fibre.
    Hope this helped.

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