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Begun-er Tok: Bengali Style Sweet and Sour Eggplant Chutney

 

Eggplant Sweet and Sour 4358._duplicate 1

 

 

Here is a simple dish where eggplants are sauteed and cooked in a sweet and sour sauce with tamarind and raisins.

 

    Eggplant Sweet and Sour 6

 

This is a traditional Bengali dish. However for some reason I have no recollection of any food memories related with this. Either this is too simple, too insignificant a dish or it was not made often enough in our home. Yet I am conversant with the flavors, the procedure as simple and common and as familiar.

 

 

Eggplant Raw final 1

 

The simple things in life bring unspeakable joys. One of them being cooking with home grown vegetables. The fruit of labor (my dad’s since he is the one taking care of my plants) brings that satisfaction, the tingling sensation of achievement when you hold the firm, and fresh vegetables in your hands and then prepare to cook with them. Then comes the repeated announcement on the table that the eggplants came from our yard.

 

 

Eggplant Sweet and Sour 3

Why I suddenly thought of cooking this dish with the eggplants I do not know. Probably because I had harvested only two eggplants and could not think of making anything with it which would suffice for all of us. This is more like a condiment than a side and one does not need in a bigger quantity.  Or it could be that something in my subconscious reminded me of the dish when I held the firm, almost seedless shiny purple eggplants.

 

Eggplant Raw 2

 

Tok (pronounced as “Tawk”) in Bengali refers to a dish that is sour and sweet at the same time and this line of recipes are usually served at the end of a meal, as a round up or culmination of all flavors. For me it does another thing. The little taste of sweet in it stops me from craving dessert after the meal. “Chutney” and Tok falls in the same category. The Bengali Chutneys end the meal and are usually a little more thicker consistency than the Tok, a bit more sweeter – a lot like a preserve. The sweet and sour flavors, and particularly the raisin along with the eggplant reminds me of the Italian Caponata. There is a perfect balance and it makes me think that I should try to make jam or preserve with eggplants and raisins. The texture is just so right!

 

Eggplant Sweet and Sour 7

 

One thing leads to another for me. I must give the eggplant preserve a try. Coming back to this Tok, a sprinkle of poppy seeds is used for a light crunch to the dish. I have never ever had this with any kind of herbs. But I have a treasured tiny plant of Golden Lemon Thyme which I heart. The flavors seemed so perfect for this dish that I had to use it. No regrets at all.

 

Eggplant Sweet and Sour 5_with Text

Begun-er  Tok: bengali Style Sweet and Sour Eggplant Chutney

 Ingredients: (Serves 4-6)

  1. 2 long and tender Chinese/Japanese  eggplants, cubed (you can use any other kind of eggplants, but make sure they are not too ripe and there are not too many large and tough seeds)
  2. 3-4 tablespoon raisins or adjust to taste
  3. 1.5 tablespoon oil
  4. 1 teaspoon Panch Phoron (use equal portions of mustard, nigella, fenugreek, cumin, and fennel seeds)** or just mustard seeds
  5. 1 dry red chili pepper + 1 hot green chili pepper, slit (optional)
  6. 1 teapoon tamarind paste ( I used the concentrated Tamicon paste)adjust amount to taste and also if you are using dried tamarind
  7. 1 tablespoon sugar or to taste
  8. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  9. salt to taste
  10. 1/2 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)
  11. Lemon thyme (Optional: this addition is unpardonably non traditional.No herbs are used here. But  I love the lemony flavor of this herb and it compliments this particular recipe so well, lending a fresh aroma and lightness to this dish. )

 ** NOTE: Description and photos of Spices. 

 

Method:

Wash eggplants and cube them. Sprinkle some salt and the turmeric powder on them, toss them well and allow them to sit for about 15 minutes. Wash the poppy seeds in a fine strainer and set aside.

Heat oil in a pan and add the Panch Phoron and dry red chili peppers (or just the mustard seeds and the dry red chili peppers). When the seeds starts to pop and sizzle add the eggplants  and the one green chili pepper if you are using the pepper and toss them quickly for the spices and oil to coat them and then cook them at high to medium heat until they start to brown at the corners and they will also get tender.

Combine the turmeric powder, tamarind paste, sugar and salt in one cup to one and a half cup of water and add the mix to the pan. Add the raisins. Cook/Simmer until the eggplants are tender but not mushed, and the sauce gets thick. (add more water if you want the sauce to be like a thin soup). Adjust salt, sugar and the sour taste. (Simmer off liquid to make it more concentrated closer to a jam).

Add the poppy seeds and the lemon thyme (rub them between your fingers to release the flavor) and simmer only for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat.

This dish is usually served in a small bowl at the end of the meal in a traditional Bengali meal. More like a pre dessert course, ending the meal with the combined flavors. But you may serve it as a side or condiment or whatever way you wish.

 

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Difficulty Level: Very Easy

Serves: 4-6

 

Eggplant Sweet and Sour 4

 

Related Posts:

 

Roasted Eggplant with Sun-dried Tomatoes

Eggplant in Tahini and Mustard Sauce

Eggplant with Tomato, Garlic and Mint

Harissa Stuffed Eggplants

Achari Baingan: Eggplant with Pickling Spices

Baingan ka Bharta: Smoky and Spiced Eggplant Mash

Thai Eggplant Massaman Curry

Methi Baingan: Eggplant with Fenugreek Leaves

Baingan Patiala (Spicy Stir Fried Eggplants)

Eggplant Caponata

Eggplant/Brinjal with Poblano Peppers

Beguni- Batter Fried Eggplants


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4 comments to Begun-er Tok: Bengali Style Sweet and Sour Eggplant Chutney

  • Ana

    Love the pics with framed aubergines – great idea!

  • Is that a cast iron pan? It looks very cool and so does the recipe. Beautiful photography as always. Love eggplant.

    It is not cast iron Monica. Does not seem as heavy as the cast iron would be.It is a pan to be used on the grill…

  • For some reason I cannot convince myself eating either vegetable tok or machher tok. I never ever had it in my life but somehow I never wanted to try it myself. It’s just an inhibition. I loved the line of announcing it at the table that they are from the yard. It’s gives an immense joy and satisfaction of eating. Hope to have a tiny patch of mine sometimes in the far future.

  • This chutney sounds delicious! I love your pretty cast-iron pan.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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