Food: eggplant/shrimp mash [begun chingri bhorta]

Eggplant is a very versatile vegetable that is quite popular in all cuisines be it French, Italian, Middle-eastern, Chinese, or Bangladeshi. It is quite fascinating, isn't it? Rice is a staple for Bangladeshis and with this rice a "bhorta" which basically means anything that is mashed goes very well together. In the Bengali cuisine anything and everything can be made into a "bhorta". But the begun or eggplant bhorta/mash is quite traditional. The eggplant is burned over the stove and then mashed with spices and mustard oil and this brings out an incredible coal flavored dish. I have taken that traditional recipe and made it in my own way by baking/broiling the eggplant and adding some crispy shrimp with it. 

You will need, 

4 eggplants halved :: 5/6 shrimp shell on :: 4 cloves of garlic :: handful of dry red chilies
1 red onion finely chopped :: 1 tbs tamarind sauce :: cilantro chopped
oil for baking/broiling :: green chilies for extra kick :: mustard oil+salt+pinch of sugar

You may very well skip the shrimp in this dish and make it an entirely vegetarian recipe. 
The mustard oil is vital to making "bhortas" but you can also substitute that for any other oil.

Place the eggplants, garlic and dry chillies on a baking tray and drizzle oil over everything. Bake at 450 for half an hour. It takes very little to cook the eggplant. After 30 min is over set the broiler for 5 mins to get the burnt effect on the eggplants. '

Take the shell on shrimp and fry them in light oil till they are crispy. This will bring a crunch to the dish.

Take everything except for the shrimp and the eggplants and mix them together very well with your hands. Mix everything together by pressing them with your fingers against the container it is in. This will break down the onions and release their sweetness. Break the dry chilies with your hands in the same manner. You have to wash your hands very well later. 

Take the shrimp and dry blend it using a mixer. It will look like shredded shrimp with crunchy pieces of shell. 

Now take the eggplant and mash it either with your hands or a masher into the spice mixture. Some of the eggplant skin will not want to break down and you can discard those. But try as much as you can. Add the shrimp. Taste.

Most often the eggplant will retain a lot of water. This is a matter of preference to keep it this way or not. My eggplants were really watery. So all I did was take all of it in a non stick pan and fry it without adding anything else till the water dried up. You will not have to add any oil since the mash already has oil in it. This will hardly take any time. I finished it off with a sprinkle of green chilies. This dish goes very well with steaming rice. But it also works great as a dip. Bon appetit!


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