Cooking Eggplant as an Entree
My husband is one of those picky eaters who will eat gobi (cauliflower) but not baingan (Eggplant). On the other hand, I love eating baingan in every form – baingan ka bharta to bhagray baingan to borani banjan.
I always try to cook baingan as an entrée to compliment rice and the other main dish or prepare it whenever there is a dawat (get-together) at my place. I was going to host some friends who are vegetarian. We were meeting after a decade, so I wanted to make something special for them and that something special was Borani Banjan.
What is Borani Banjan?
Borani Banjan is an Afghani Eggplant dish – extremely versatile and perfect for summers. “Banjan”, is an Afghan word for eggplant and “Borani” is reffered to cold yogurt based dishes. The combination of rustic eggplants with tomatoes is like a match made in heaven and garlic- flavored yogurt topping is like a cherry on top. The dish is garnished with dried mint and pomegranate seeds taking it to another level.
Origin of Borani Banjan
Borani is a Persian word, meaning “cold yoghurt-based dish” which is typically served as a side dish along with main meals usually pulao or with breads. Margaret Shaida narrates in her classic book “The legendary Cuisine of Persia”, the dish borani roots back to the era of Queen Pourandokht, the Sassanian Empress (224-651 AD), who ruled Iran as one of the only three female monarchs in history.
The royal empress was fond of eating simple dishes based on yogurt and vegetables. Royal chefs during her regime crafted assorted varieties of borani using different vegetables to please the queen. These dishes were named after her – Pourani. Later, when the Arabs conquered Iran, the names of the dishes changed to borani as letter “p” does not exist in the Arabic language.
It is also known as Bademjan Borani in Persian cuisine.
How to buy best Eggplants?
Eggplant is one of those vegetables the is readily available around the world. When buying eggplants, always choose the ones that are firm and use them right away or store them in a cool place — not in the fridge. The longer it is kept in fridge more bitter it will get. Therefore, I buy them fresh the same day when I want to cook them.
For Borani Banjan, I prefer using the long chinese eggplants over thick and fat italian eggplant. Nothing like finding the Pakistani / afghani/ indian local eggplants.
How to make Borani Banjan?
There are endless variations of eggplant and yogurt dishes all across the world. Borani is a very hearty and colorful dish famous in afghani cuisine and adapted in every culture according to local taste. There are endless variations of creating Borani, no matter how you make the borani, eggplant and yogurt compliment each other like none other.
For creating this recipe, thinly sliced eggplants are first fried and later cooked in a tomato-based masala and served on a bed on garlicy yogurt. For a healthier version, bake the eggplants instead of frying. Use of dried mint and pomegranate seeds enhances the flavor of the dish.
- Fried Eggplants: Cut thinly sliced eggplants. Dip them in salt for 5 minutes to sweat them nicely. Drain and wash them followed by pan fried until crispy on both sides.
- Tomato Masala: A simple khara masala is cooked with onion, tomatoes and garlic. It is flavored simply with staple salt, chilies and turmeric. Once the masala is cooked fried eggplants are layered on top of the tomaotes masala and cooked on dam.
- Garlicy Yogurt : Greek yogurt for hung curd yogurt is whisked with finely chopped garlic or garlic powder. Dont dilute the yogurt by adding water. It is kept thick. It is flavored with only salt. mint leaves can also be mixed into the yogurt to enhance the freshness of the dish.
- Dried Mint and Pomegrante: Dried and coarsely grounded pomegrante seeds and dried mint are added as a garnish on top of the dish. Sumac can also be used to sprinkle on top as garnish, it will add a beautitful inviting colour to the dish.
How to Serve it ?
It can be served as side dish or entree with palou / biryani / boiled rice or with roti / naan. Traditionally at Afghani dastarkhawans Kabuli Pulao is served with Namkeen Gosht and Borani Banjan for a festive meal. It can also be a perfect vegetarian side with a lentils main.
Borani Banjan – Reader Favorite at Pots ‘n Curries
This simple and delicious recipe for Borani Banjan is very close to my heart as this recipe is one of the most recreated recipe from my blog. I have got so much apprecation and so many people have recreated this dish and shared on Instagram. It makes me very happy, that I have been able to pass a traditional recipe from my kitchen to yours.
It’s amazing how the classic Pakistani dishes like baingan ka bharta and bhagray baingan have been taken over in popularity by Borani Banjan at Pots n Curries :). I leave you here to enjoy this delicious recipe, as the Afghans would say, Ischtia khoob.
The recipe is inspired by Maryam from @PakistanEats & Shayma from @thespicespoon
- Eggplant – 1 medium, thinly sliced
- Olive oil or ghee – 2 tablespoons
- Onion – 1 medium
- Tomato – 2 large
- Green chilies – 3
- Garlic – 3/4 teaspoon + 1/2 teaspoon
- Salt – 1 teaspoon
- Red chili powder – ¾ teaspoon
- Turmeric powder – ¼ teaspoon
- Greek Yogurt – 2 cups
- Pomegranate seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Sumac – 1 teaspoon (Optional)
- Red crushed chillies – 1/2 teaspoon (optional)
- Dry mint leaves – 1 teaspoon
- Oil for frying
Garlic-y Yogurt Base
- Whisk yogurt in a bowl. Don’t add any water to make it runny.
- Flavor it with 3/4 teaspoon chopped garlic or garlic powder. ( fresh garlic will add more flavor)
- Layer the serving dish with this prepared yogurt and set aside.
- Take the eggplant, cut it into thin slices. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt on it for 5 mins and let it sweat. Wash it thoroughly.
- Shallow fry them in oil until light golden brown on each side. Eggplant absorbs oil, once fried pat with kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.
- To prepare the tomato masala, in a pan take 2 – 3 cooking spoons of oil. Add sliced onion and cook until slightly pink.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of garlic and fry for a minute until rawness of garlic is finished. Add green chilies, salt, turmeric and red chili powder. Sautee for another minute. Lastly add tomatoes.
- Let it cook on medium flame, until tomatoes are tender, and oil starts to separate.
- Layer the fried eggplant slices into the cooked masala .
- Don’t mix with the spoon because they will get mashy which we don’t want.
- Cook on dam for 5 mins
- Layer the prepared eggplants on top of the yogurt along with tomato masala.
- Garnish with dried mint, crushed pomegranate seeds and red chili flakes & sumac (optinal).
- Serve it cold with pulao and any lentils or meat dish.