If there’s one word you hear alongside Pujo almost every time, it is bonus. Yes, Pujo and bonus go hand in hand. So it would be unfair on my part to finish off my Eat Like a Bong series without a special something that would make your lips curve into a smile. Now everybody loves Pujor bhog. I adore it — khichudi, gol alu bhaja, laabra, badhakopi, chutney and papad is a combination I can never tire of. If you’ve noticed I’ve missed out a very key element here — beguni. I am allergic to eggplants, so beguni is something I am not destined to have. My father’s side of the family is absolutely mad about eggplants, but I have a theory, I don’t cook something that I don’t eat. But when you’re eating like a Bong, beguni is a must. And this is where Dhrubaa (who blogs at Not a Curry) steps in.
At school, we use to take our house competitions and sports very seriously. Dhrubaa, my senior in school, was the pride of our house and the envy of everybody else’s. She ran like lightning (I hope she still does) and danced like a dream. From a week before sports, everybody would start praying she falls ill, twists her ankle, has a loose motion and we would fervently hope that their wishes don’t come true. Thanks to Dhrubaa and a few other star athletes like Debanjali, Rukmini, Shalini, I don’t remember our house ever coming second in sports barring maybe once! We lost touch after school only to regain it years later as food bloggers. Dhrubaa is now a grad student at College Station, Texas, and runs her amazing food blog Not a Curry. So here’s Dhrubaa, from thousands of miles away, telling you what exactly Pujo is for her and why beguni is inseparable from it. 🙂
When my favorite blogger and friend, Pritha, asked me to guest post for her Eat Like a Bong blog series, I was elated beyond measure. Primarily because this is my first guest post ever, but more importantly (redundancy intended) because I am a Bong, I eat like one, and Debi Pokkhyo has started.
For days I deliberated on an appropriate Pujo recipe. The recipe had to be ostensibly Bengali, unmistakably festive, and absolutely joyful. And the winner in all these categories was Beguni !!!
Aaahh, beguni! Where do I start with beguni? Simply described, it is a humble eggplant fritter that is soft and meaty in the inside while being fluffy and crusty on the outside.
Sometimes speckled with onions seeds, sometimes not, but always delicious. But there’s more to beguni than its savory aspect. Beguni is emblematic of all festivities in Bengal. It signifies happiness. The happiness of getting drenched in monsoon rains, of winter picnics, of communal meals, of Pujo bhogs, of roadside addas, of bunked college classes, of saraswati pujos in schools and colleges, of school excursions, of Independence Day functions… Beguni is the fundamental element of all happy meals in Bengal.
Any life cycle or religious (or apparently religious) ceremony in Bengal is incomplete without the smell of gram flour battered eggplants sizzling in large cast iron woks brimming with mustard oil. A communal meal where half dhuti and gamcha clad men don’t walk around busily with cane baskets shouting “Dada, ekhane aro beguni lagbe” (need more begunis here) is not Bengali enough. So you see why my first ever chance to impress Pritha’s readers with my culinary prowess must wait, and why I must make begunis instead.
Ready to spread some more Bengaliness? Start here:
Medium sized Eggplant: Cut into 1/4 inch think slices
Gram flour: 2 cups, plus more if needed
Onion seeds/carom seeds: 1 tsp
Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Water: 1 cup
Enough mustard (preferred) or vegetable oil for deep-frying
1. Using a wire whisk, thoroughly mix gram flour, spices, salt, and water in a bowl.
2. Heat oil in a think bottomed pan over medium heat. You know the oil is ready when it starts forming bubbles on the edges.
3. One by one, dip an eggplant slice in the gram flour batter and release into the hot oil. Fry for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove from oil onto an absorbent paper. The trick is to not crowd the pan. Fry only a few at a time. If the oil gets too hot, reduce the flame immediately.
4. Season the fried begunis with a little extra salt. It is important to not salt raw eggplants for beguni, or else they will start releasing water, which will greatly compromise its crunchiness. Bengunis are always best when fried immediately before serving.
Hop to Dhrubaa’s blog Not a Curry for more amazing recipes!