Food Talk
Pushpesh Pant
Brinjal on a plate
The mustard-laced sorshe begun can be served cold on a bed of dahi-based gravy

WHAT most of us tend to forget is that all food is constantly evolving. Tastes change with new stimuli and cooking styles adapt to labour and time-saving products — gadgets and pre-processed ingredients. Can the present generation imagine the days before the pressure cooker, gas stoves and electric mixers and blenders? Or for that matter packaged, standardised ground spices not to forget ginger and garlic pastes? One can nostalgically lament the lost aromas but we, on our part, don’t complain too much but like to gratefully improvise on traditional themes with whatever is available in the modern kitchen. Nor are we inhibited about fusion. Remember, all honoured culinary classics were once created by some imaginative and adventurous soul in the kitchen.

Sorshe maach is the inspiration behind this week’s mustard-laced begun bhaja. Both the bhaja and this genre of maach belong to the traditional Bengal repertoire. The texture of the round brinjal, used mostly for bharta and bhaja, comes close to the flesh of the fish. When a vegetarian Marwari hostess, who has long resided in Kolkata, treated us to this ‘creation’, we could only marvel at her ingenuity and kept wondering why someone hadn’t thought of this earlier! Well, there always is a Eureka moment.

This delicacy can be served cold on a bed of dahi-based gravy, pressed betwixt a novel desi sandwich, and even adapted to meaty mince-topped moussaka-like dish.


Sorshe Begun


Brinjal (medium-sized, round) 1
Mustard paste (freshly ground with 2 green chillies &1 tsp lemon juice or bottled Kasundhi) 2 tbsp
Mustard oil (for deep frying) 1cup
Salt to taste
Gravy (optional)
Dahi (thick, whisked) 200 ml


Slice the brinjal in ¼ inch thick slices. Sprinkle salt and keep in a plate to sweat. Heat oil in a pan to smoking point. Then, lower the flame and add the brinjal deep-frying in batches till light golden-brown in colour. Lower the flame to simmer and slowly pour in the dahi stirring briskly all the time to avoid curdling. Cook till the raw smell is gone. Add salt and mustard paste. Stir for 30 seconds. Add the fried, sliced brinjal gently. Cook on low heat for a minute. Remove and add a tsp of mustard oil. Garnish with chopped green chillies and coriander.

If gravy is not desired and the dry version is preferred, heat 2 tsp of mustard oil in a frying pan and put mustard paste in it. Stir-fry on low heat for 30 seconds. Add sliced brinjal and cook further for two to three minutes. You may increase or decrease the quantity of mustard paste to obtain the preferred pungency.