22 February 2009

Aloo-begun (Potatoes and eggplant with fennel)

23 February 2009
Someone once told me that eggplant/ brinjal is called begun in Bangla (baingan in Hindi) because it lacks any gun or good qualities. I don’t know if it’s an old wives tale or if there’s any truth to it. According to this website though, eggplants are recommended for those interested in losing weight! That’s a bit of a surprise because the two ways that I really like my eggplants – deep-fried or in lamb moussaka – are both loaded with fat. Then there’s this blog that suggests that perhaps the veggie loses its value when cooked. Whatever be the case, I quite enjoy my begun.

This dish was/is one of Papa’s favourites and one of the few times he enjoyed a parantha. Papa has always been more of a chapatti man. Mamma used to make this as Sunday brunch, usually along with thick-gravied chicken/meat as the non-vegetarian dish for the day. While growing up, the only way I liked my eggplant was as begun bhaaja (thick slices of eggplant, deep fried). I never appreciated the sheer magic of this simple dish. Surprisingly now, it’s one of my favourites.

I was quite surprised to discover that eggplant is quite a staple in Australia. Folks even have grilled eggplant in their sandwiches, though I daresay am not exactly partial to begun in my sandwich. You can call it a mental block or cultural difference.

I’ve shared this particular recipe with a lady here – Partner’s school friend’s wife – and she loved it. Recently she told me she cooked it for her in-laws and they loved it too. Being ever sceptical of compliments, I had politely smiled when she’d given me the feedback. However, I was duly chastised later when I happened to bump into her sister-in-law who mentioned that she had tasted one of my recipes and had completely loved it. Moral of the story: Cynicism is not healthy when cooking eggplants.

Note to self: Call Mamma and thank her… Thanks Mamma!

Aloo-begun (Potatoes and eggplant with fennel)
Serves: 2
Cooked on: Low heat in covered pan/wok
Accompaniment: Salad of your choice
Try this with: Paranthas

Mustard oil (preferred) or canola (any vegetable) oil: 1 TBS
Fennel seeds: 2 TBS
Potatoes, old*: 2 big, peeled and diced
Brinjal/ aubergine/ egg plant: 2 big (6-8 long ones), diced
Green chilli: 1-2, optional
Salt: to taste
Turmeric ground: 1 heaped TSP
Coriander ground: 1 heaped TSP
Red chilli ground: 1 level TSP (or as hot as you want)
Sugar: 1 TSP
Ginger: 1”, grated
Water: 2 TBS
Coriander: fresh, enough to garnish, optional

TBS = tablespoon; TSP = teaspoon

  1. Brinjal cooks faster than potatoes; therefore use older potatoes as they cook faster than tougher, new ones.
  2. Brinjal and potatoes turn black when left in open air. Cut vegies right before you start cooking. To prevent potatoes from turning black, keep diced potatoes soaked in a bowl of water with 1 TSP salt in it. Drain water when cooking.
  3. While both potatoes and brinjal are diced, the potatoes will be diced slightly smaller than the brinjal. The texture of both vegetables is different; therefore cooking times are different. In order to prevent either your brinjal overcooking or potatoes remaining undercooked, please ensure you cut them as mentioned.
  4. Always keep your spices, salt etc handy so that you’re not opening-closing cupboards to find them.
  5. The vegies in this dish are cooked mainly by steaming so you will need a wok/ deep frying pan with a tight-fitting lid.
  6. Please wear an apron! If you are anything like me, the potatoes will have a tendency of (in)frequently flying out of the pan and landing on your tee shirt. Turmeric splatters are tough to remove from clothes.


  1. Heat the (mustard) oil in the deep frying pan on low heat till it starts smoking (keep your exhaust on).
  2. Once oil smokes, add the fennel seeds; they should start spluttering in a minute.
  3. Now add the potatoes and sauté for 5-7 minutes. You’ll need to mix the potatoes and fennel so that the fennel does not burn (horrid taste) or the spuds don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Once potatoes turn slightly golden, add the brinjal/eggplant. Mix well so that both potatoes and brinjal are coated with the fennel seeds. Again, ensure fennel does not turn black. Cook for 5-7 minutes, mixing intermittently.
  5. Once brinjal turns brown, add salt, turmeric, red chilli and ground coriander and mix well so that vegies are well-coated with spice mixture. Increase heat to medium and cook open for 3 minutes, mixing well. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and cook covered for another 5 minutes.
  6. Remove lid, mix vegies again, sprinkle the sugar and mix well for another 2 minutes. You will notice that spice mixture begins to start sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add 2 TBS water, grated ginger, mix well and cover the pan. Cook for 8 minutes.
  7. At the end of cooking time, the vegies should be giving off a brilliant spuddy-fennelly (oh well) aroma. Uncover the pan and check the potatoes with a fork. If they break/can be cut easily with a fork, your vegies are ready. If not, mix well, sprinkle a little more water – do not drown the vegies! – and cook covered for another 5 minutes or till done. Usually you don’t need the second round of covered cooking.
  8. Finally, remove lid and cook open for another 2 minutes, scraping off the caramelised spices at the bottom of the pan and mix well with the vegies.
  9. Turn off the gas and allow to cool slightly while covered. Transfer to serving dish, garnish with coriander and serve with paranthas/puris.

We’re done!
PS: If you do try this, please let me know how it turns out and if you liked the dish.


Sree said...

Believe me will u? I today made eggplant and potato.But seperate.2 dishes,tht is.hmm.Now gotta go and buy another eggplant to try this out.

Eve* aka JB said...

really? what did you cook?

Sree said...

Just some stir fried potatoes and eggplant.Alrite!! this is gonna make me sound like a bad cook :( But yea thts wht i did today.Onion,chilli pwdr,haldi,salt,blah.I also made chicken.Cooking is not a fav thing to do anymore.

simplypallu said...

Did you try it this way?

Eve* aka JB said...

hello Pallu ji
shall definitely try it that way. :D

simplypallu said...

Mom used to make the baingan subzi almost the same way. Been a long time since I made the subzi... we gluttons gorge mostly on the crisps.

simplypallu said...

*Hides under her desk* at the mention of "ji" against her name... what did I do to deserve that... makes me feel all old and wise. You can call me Pallu :)

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

Ty doi-begun...

And I love my begun bhaajaa AND beguni with gorom khichuri! Slurp!

Eve* aka JB said...

Mamma Mia: What is doi begun? i know what doi is but i have NEVER had doi begun..and i just checked on your blog, there's no doi begun there but LOTS of Hugh Jackman.... please see archives, he is MINE. :D
AND will you share the recipe for doi begun...whenever you have time?

Sree: Hmm.. doesnt the lil one like food?

Eve* aka JB said...

pallu ji... reactions from you are much more fun with the 'ji'. :D

Dheeraj said...

Wow!! Aaloo Baigan to kick off a food blog. I wouldn't have believed it, if I hadn't seen it. I thought you would start with the mutton thingy you were talking about.

-- gigo

p.s. I hate baigan

chandni said...

I am going to try it tonight JB!

Will let you know once I am done :)

Till now I've only tried bharta with brinjal since that's the only brinjal dish I knew!!!!

So lets see how the experiment turns out...I am tempted to add some jeera too :)

Eve* aka JB said...

@Chandni: go ahead and add the jeera but SKIP the fennel then. You want to enhance a single flavour, not confuse it. :) And do lemme know how it tastes!

chandni said...

oh in that case i'll stick to the fennel....bengali style!!!

ok I am off :)

Dolores said...

Well I haven't tried your recipe - YET; I found your link looking for nutritional information for a dish I purchased at a local Indian grocery. Their version is uber-hot -- I'm pleased to find a recipe I can try in my own kitchen, adjust to fit my heat tolerance.

I'm glad I found you -- many of your other recipes also intrigue me!

Eve* aka JB said...

@ Dolores: Thanks for leaving your feedback. If you note, most dishes on this blog have a heat-adjustable theme, do feel free to try them out. And once you do and if so inclined, do let me know if you liked the end result. cheers

a.s said...

WOW!!!!!Thanks JB,I used to love brinjal when I was small,but after my marriage,when I learned cooking,I was not able to make a tasty recipe out of it...But I just loved this recipe of yours...and you know my husband is born and brought up in Bangal,he doesnt likes begun but he liked this one...thanks alot..:)

arindam said...

Worked wonderfully. I have made aloo-begun before by various methods, but this is one of the best.

Eve* aka JB said...

@ Arindam: Much thanks for trying it out and really glad you enjoyed it. :)

@ AS: Ah, always good to hear someone grew over their aversion! Do try eggplant fry as well, even Aussies love it here. Just cut eggplant into thick slices, rub little mustard oil, salt and chilli powder and keep aside till you heat more oil in a wok. Once oil is very hot, deep fry the sliced eggplant. Very UNHEALTHY but very tasty.

Rana mallick said...

go east go west begun bhaja is the best ;-)