Eggplant is a favourite vegetable (or fruit?) among Bengali people who reside in West Bengal in India and Bangladesh. For this salad, the big, purple eggplant works best. The way I pick one is to look for a tight and blemish-free skin. I then weigh an eggplant in each hand and pick the lightest one. Tapping the eggplant with a finger should produce a hollow sound. Eggplants that are huge and heavy are full of seeds which are annoying to eat.
I find it easiest to cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, rub some oil over the surface and cut sides, lay them face down on a greased cookie sheet and bake them at a high temperature for 20-25 minutes. This cooks the core to a soft and silky pulp that should ideally be hand-mixed with the listed ingredients. The more traditional way is to place a flat cast-iron pan (tawa) on the stove and char the eggplant over a low flame, turning it over and around every now and then.
Mustard oil is a must & provides a lovely pungent flavour to this salad. It is readily available in Indian markets outside India. In our household, a dried red chili is held with tongs over an open flame to char all over and then mashed into the salad. This adds an unbeatable smoky flavour. A word of caution - make sure to turn it around, not allowing the chili to burn or catch fire because that will have everyone at home coughing and crying their eyes out!
1 large eggplant, cut in half lengthwise
1 + 2 Tbsp. mustard oil
1 hot green chili, diced and/or 1 toasted dried red chili, crushed
1 small onion, diced
1 handful cilantro, chopped
salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 400*F, grease a cookie sheet and wash the eggplant.
- Cut eggplant lengthwise, prick skin with a fork & rub with 1 Tbsp. oil.
- Place eggplant, cut-side down, on greased cookie sheet.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until peel appears wrinkled and charred.
- Remove eggplant halves from oven and set aside to cool.
- Scoop flesh away from peel and discard the peel.
- Coarsely chop eggplant and hand-mix with remaining ingredients.