Eggplant – the vegetable that goes by several names, Aubergine, Brinjal, and Baigan to name a few, is not your definite crowd-pleaser. While there are a lot of people who love this humble, unassuming vegetable, there is also a significant group who have their reservations about it.
I was one of those people sitting on the fence, never fully believing in the culinary capabilities of this vegetable. But, that was before a friend of mine invited me to try his mom’s Vangi Bath (Eggplant Rice) for lunch. That lunch changed my perspective, and I became a big fan of Vangi Bath, as well as the hero ingredient, Eggplant (Aubergine/Brinjal).
Vangi Bath (Eggplant Rice/Aubergine Rice), for the uninitiated, is a popular rice-based delicacy from the Karnataka cuisine, where small pieces of aubergine is cooked with select spices (vangi bath masala), and mixed with rice making it a meal in itself.
This delicacy now features in my favourite one-pot meals, or more appropriately in my favourite one-pan meals.
When I thought of cooking this flavoured rice myself, I knew that none of the recipes I can find online will match up to the original, great taste that converted me to a vangi bath lover. After exchanging many emails and Whatsapp messages with my friend, who lives in the US now, I drafted a recipe. A couple of attempts later, and with some tweaks that I managed myself, I present you the “take-it-easy” version of vangi bath!
I hope the creative freedom that I took, which altered the colour of the dish from a purist’s perspective, have still done justice to the recipe’s original kick-ass flavours and taste! In a true “take-it-easy” way, I have made the spice mix from scratch, but without making it too complicated.
You can use any good shop-bought, ready-to-use vangi bath powder mix, but where is the joy in cooking then!
Vangi Bath (Eggplant / Aubergine / Brinjal Rice)
For Vangi Bath powder
- 4 chilies dry kashmiri
- 1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon channa dal
- 1/2 tablespoon urad dal
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon methi seeds
- 4 cloves
- 1 inch cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 cardamoms
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 sprigs curry leaves
- 1 green chillies - slit lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon coconut dry - grated (OPTIONAL)
- 1 onion medium (2 small)
- 350 grams eggplant (brinjal)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 3 cups rice cooked
- to taste salt
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (OPTIONAL)
- 1 sprig coriander leaves (OPTIONAL)
- Prep the ingredients - thinly slice the onions, and slit the green chilli lengthwise. Cook and keep the rice ready. I used Basmati rice, but any white rice will do.
- We have two set of spices - one for the vangi bath mix, and the second one for frying in oil.
- Heat a pan, and dry fry the vangi bath mix ingredients. I usually add dry chillies after the other ingredients turn golden brown. Dry chillies might burn if you add them in the beginning.
- Set aside to cool. Blitz in a mixer to fine powder. This is our vangi bath mix.
- Cut the eggplants (brinjal) to small pieces. Only the green variants of eggplant are used in the traditional recipes. I, however, used both green and purple varieties to get a good balance of colours!
- Heat some oil in a pan, splutter mustard seeds, followed by bay leaf, cumin seeds, and cardamom.
- Add onions, curry leaves, and green chillies. You can add some grated dry coconut (copra) at this stage (Optional).
- Once the onions are tender, add the eggplant pieces.
- Add turmeric, salt, and mix well.
- Cover and cook on a low flame till the brinjal pieces are tender.
- Add the ground Vangi bath mix. Mix well, and cook for a few minutes (without closing the lid) stirring occasionally.
- Add 2 tablespoons water so that the rice (when we add it) will be moist enough.
- Switch off the flame. Add 3 cups of boiled rice. Mix well so that masala gets evenly distributed, and the rice gets fully coated. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Adding olive oil is optional, but it enhances the flavours.
- Vangi bath has a mild tanginess from the lime juice. Ideally (as seen in traditional recipes) you should squeeze in some lime juice to the rice. But I kept lime wedges separate so that it can be squeezed fresh just before eating. Garnish with some freshly chopped cilantro (coriander leaves). Enjoy with some cucumber raita (or any raita/cold yogurt).