There's a surprising entry on menus across the city. The vegetable, often discarded as the one people love to hate, is suddenly gaining favour with chefs across the city. We're talking about the brinjal.. aubergine in England, eggplant in the US, melanzane in Italy and baingan in India.
Eggplant is fast emerging as an exciting option for vegetar ians who otherwise have limited options to choose from.The Mediterranean baba ganoush has its loyalists, as does the Greek mousakka and French ratatouille. And Indian chefs are trying hard to come up with creative variations to the dish.
So, you have the Vie Lounge in Juhu serving three different eggplant preparations on their Sunday brunch menu. Aubergine fritters with a stuffing of mushroom pate is a favourite entrée. It's a popular mainstay in the vegetarian tempuras served at Spices the Chinese restaurant at JW Marriott.
Braised eggplants with green onion and pickled chilli are served as a relish at the newly opened China House at the Grand Hyatt, while Ambbiir at Kemp's Corner had aubergine caviar on their menu until a while ago.
The vegetable is a big hit specially in restaurants in with a sizable vegetarian clientele. Says chef Chef Clyde Comello, executive chef Vie Lounge, "Vegetarians usually have limited choices at restaurants and eggplant fits in the bill. We have tried to create different versions of the same vegetable to make it more interesting."
Largely a monsoon vegetable, eggplant originated in India and is available round the year now but its peak season is August and September. When it's really fresh, it has a sweet, mild flavour. The rest of the world seems to be in just as much awe of the purple vegetable as us. Thai chefs use the green global variety in curries. Italians roll thin slices around goat cheese and ladle it with red sauce.
It's a key ingredient in French ratatouille, Mediterranean baba ghanoush and the Chinese use it in a variety of preparations as it pairs well with lamb, tomatoes, cream sauces, garlic and herbs. In southern Italy it is often referred to as the poor man's caviar.
So the next time you see a good ‘ol baingan on the menu, don't screw your nose. Dig right in, it's a cool thing to eat.