Eggplant

The raw fruit can have a somewhat bitter taste, but becomes tender when cooked and develops a rich, complex flavour. Many recipes advise salting, rinsing and draining of the sliced fruit (known as “degorging”), to soften it and to reduce the amount of fat absorbed during cooking, but mainly to remove the bitterness of the earlier cultivars.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana

Melanzane alla Parmigiana, or Eggplant Parmesan

Some modern varieties – including large, purple varieties commonly imported into western Europe – do not need this treatment. The fruit is capable of absorbing large amounts of cooking fats and sauces, making for very rich dishes, but salting reduces the amount of oil absorbed. The fruit flesh is smooth; as in the related tomato, the numerous seeds are soft and edible along with the rest of the fruit. The thin skin is also edible.

The plant is used in the cuisine of many countries. It is often stewed, as in the French ratatouille, or deep fried as in the Italian parmigiana di melanzane, the Turkish karnıyarık or Turkish and Greek musakka/moussaka, and Middle-Eastern and South Asian dishes. Eggplants can also be battered before deep-frying and served with a sauce made of tahini and tamarind. In Iranian cuisine, it can be blended with whey as kashk e-bademjan, tomatoes as mirza ghasemi or made into stew as khoresh-e-bademjan. It can be sliced and deep-fried, then served with plain yoghurt, (optionally) topped with a tomato and garlic sauce, such as in the Turkish dish patlıcan kızartması (meaning: fried aubergines) or without yoghurt as in patlıcan şakşuka. Perhaps the best-known Turkish eggplant dishes are İmam bayıldı (vegetarian) and Karnıyarık (with minced meat).

It may also be roasted in its skin until charred, so the pulp can be removed and blended with other ingredients, such as lemon, tahini, and garlic, as in the Middle Eastern Baba Ghanoush and the similar Greek melitzanosalata. Grilled, mashed and mixed with onions, tomatoes and spices make the Indian dish baingan ka Bhartha or gojju, similar to salată de vinete in Romania, while a mix of roasted eggplant, roasted red peppers, chopped onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, celery and spices is called zacuscă in Romania or Ajvar in Croatia and the Balkans. A simpler version of the dish, Begun-Pora (eggplant-charred or burnt), is popular in the east Indian state of Bengal and Bangladesh where the charred pulp is mixed with raw chopped onions, green chillies, salt and mustard oil. A Catalan dish called Escalivada calls for strips of roasted eggplant, sweet pepper, onion and tomato.

The fruit can also be hollowed out and tuffed with meat, rice, or other fillings and then baked. In the Caucasus, for example, it is fried and stuffed with walnut paste to make Nigvziani Badrijani. It can also be found in Chinese cuisine, braised (紅燒茄子), stewed (魚香茄子), steamed (凉拌茄子), or stuffed (釀茄子).

As a native plant, it is widely used in Indian cuisine, for example in sambhar, dalma (a dal preparation with vegetables, native to Orissa), chutney, curry, and achaar. Owing to its versatile nature and wide use in both everyday and festive Indian food, it is often described (under the name brinjal) as the “King of Vegetables”. In one dish, brinjal is stuffed with ground coconut, peanuts, and masala, and then cooked in oil.

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