Ya right, I am a “Baingan baby”! For one, they are very versatile, and can be used like potatoes (minus the starch) with almost any veggie and in any curry. And two, because they have a neutral taste and you could easily get these lovelies absorb any flavor while cooking. I’ve read somewhere that for centuries, before people looked at aubergines as food, they would use them only as ornamental garden plants, rather than as food. The reason I learnt was because the wild varieties of the fruit were bitter. Ouch! That’s very unlikely of how the “civilized aubergines” I know would behave! And then, it turns out that though Aubergines are kitchen celebrities worldwide, they were actually born in India. What??
My favorite veggie an Indian too? Aah, so here’s how we are now related patriotically — we’re both children of the same Motherland! Alright, I know. It’s still just Wednesday and I am already in a jolly good mood…and out of the blues into the purples, rather quickly!! Well, I saw a good start of this week and it hasn’t been so draining. End-of April has been kind to me…
Interestingly, in Bangla, my native tongue, aubergines are called “Begoon“, which literally translates to “has no benefits“! And I was always told as a child that “begoon e kono goon nei“, meaning ‘aubergines lacked the nutrition’ and that I should try get myself a better favorite veggie. But guess what? Aubergines are a great source of vitamins, and are full of minerals, dietary fibers plus has a potential to bring down bad cholesterol and body weight. Super food?
And yes, Aubergines ARE native Indian. As a matter of fact, the word “aubergine” (that most in Europe use) can be traced to having it’s roots in Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language. And if that wasn’t enough, the the American name for this veggie “Eggplant” also originated in British-colonized India, inspired from the petite oval and white forms that looked like chicken’s eggs. Ironically though, the word “Baigan“, which is used in India for aubergines, was borrowed from Persia. And this was a helluva lot about the poor purple plant’s geography.
The history anyone? As I grew up and started paying more attention to what my Botany teacher painstakingly taught us at high school, I learnt that aubergines weren’t vegetables at all. I mean they scientifically were “fruits” that we used as “vegetables”. In fact, they were classified as “BERRIES” and were relatives to tomatoes! Common, of all, aubergine was a “berry“? Like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries? So aubergine was the member that was cheating upon the real berries for tobacco, yet another family that it was related to. How deceiving can someone closely related to you be? Gosh, how complicated can a relationship get? In fact it was Miss purple beauty’s affair with the Nightshade group of plants, that made people think aubergines were poisonous too! True that! And all this while I thought it were only humans that were most complex in these matters.
Well that was more than the share of social science on Aubergines that I can take. How about the most important subject? Food Science? Aubergines are good anyway. Baked, fried or boiled and seasoned. It is one veggie all countries eat with love, and it is hugely popular in the Mediterranean cuisine. I particularly love how the Turkish do it. And my favorite isn’t Baba Ghanoush. It’s very good though, but I like the chilled aubergine snack they make with spiced tomato based sauce. I looove it.
In India, aubergines are considered very desi and the veggie finds extensive use in the country’s own regional cuisines. However, there, we tend not to look at aubergines when it comes to global foods. Be it a snack, an appetizer, a side, or something to go with breads, pastas or rice…we wouldn’t think of aubergines if we are thinking global. For those times, we’d rather prefer considering carrots, beans, potatoes, peas, corns and the likes — usually excluding aubergines. But why not? After all, when it comes to good food, this purple veggie has such great public appeal!
I would be very obliged and honored if any of my savory aubergine recipes is able to change this general inclination and point of view, just a bit. I have this versatile aubergine patty recipe for sandwiches. Aubergines are generally known to drink a lot of oil when they’re fried, which often renders it less healthier. I tried to surpass this property by coating and then slow browning to cook the patties. In “Molecular Gastronomy“, or the chemistry of cooking, there is a phenomenon called the “Maillard Reaction“. It is a chemical reaction between the amino acids and reducing sugars that render the browned foods their color and flavor. I tried to make use of that to brown and cook my aubergine patties (without having them imbibe all that oil), and seal in all their juices.
My seared and toasted Aubergine patty sandwiches have a great umami taste and make excellent pool-side or picnic food. My intention is to play cupid and have all fall in love with this delightful veggie and use it more often in multi-faceted dishes. These patties can be made crispy or regular…with eggs or without…so it’s quite an adaptive recipe. Try it and fall in love with aubergines all over again!
Ingredients: (Serves – 4)
- 4 Sandwich rolls or buns of your choice or 8 slices of bread (I used Italian Crustini rolls)
- 1 elongated Aubergine — the elongated oval deep purple variety
- 2 eggs (if you don’t eat eggs, use a solution of 3 tbsp all purpose flour in 5-6 tbsp water)
- Breadcrumbs (enough amount to coat the aubergine patties)
- Butter or Cheese spread
- Your choice of garden veggies from: Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumber or pickles, or cheese slices
- Condiments you like: Mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard sauce, chili peppers, relish, mild chunky salsa, or hot sauce
- Light olive oil for frying
- Salt and crushed pepper to taste
- Wash the aubergine and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
- Using the thick oval part of the aubergine, cut 8 circular slices that are about 0.5-1 cm thick. These will make our sandwich patties.
- Crack the eggs in a bowl and beat/whisk them nicely with a spoon. Alternatively, you may also use a dipping solution of 3 tbsp of all purpose flour mixed uniformly in 5-6 tbsp water.
- Keep the breadcrumbs ready on a plate for use
- Dip an aubergine slice into the egg/flour solution and flip to coat both sides
- Next, transfer the aubergine slice (from the egg/dipping solution) on the place with breadcrumbs and let the crumbs nicely coat both the sides of aubergine slice.
- Place a non-stick frying pan on stove top and heat minimal olive oil over medium heat. Use only as much oil as is required for shallow frying.
- Place the bread-crumb-coated aubergine patty on the frying pan and fry both sides until the patty is well done and acquires a lovely brown color. During frying, keep pressing the patty with a little pressure from your slotted turner (karchi/khunti) — this ensures the patty to get evenly cooked, browned and that it doesn’t soak as much oil. Check for the aubergine — the patty core should be somewhat soft and cooked.
- Once done, take out the patty from the pan and place on an absorbing kitchen towel.
- Repeat steps 5-9 for all the aubergine slices you have.
- Use the cheese or butter spread on the inside of your sandwich rolls/buns/bread slices.
- Take one set of sandwich breads, place lettuce on the base, top it with 2-aubergine patties, add a little mayonnaise and ketchup, and place the top/cover bread. Alternatively, build your own customized burgers or sandwiches, using fresh garden greens and condiments of your choice. (Preferably, use two patties together to get a lovely thick aubergine-body to bite on!)
- Assemble your sandwich and serve them with a side of what you’d love the most with it — french fries, onion rings, pickles, bacon strips, soda-based drinks, fresh diced fruits or whatever you like!
**Tip: If you do not like crispy sandwich patties and prefer regular softer ones…then take your aubergine slices straight from the dipping solution bowl to the frying pan and fry/cook them (proceed without using the bread crumb coat). Follow other steps as is and enjoy!