1. Wash the brinjal well and cut them down the centre, longitudinally, taking care to keep the stalk on. Once cut longitudinally down the middle, each half retains the shape of the whole brinjal.
2. Smear them with salt, sugar, turmeric and red chilli powder. Allow them to rest for 10 minutes
3. Heat mustard oil in a pan. The depth of the oil should be about 5mm from the base of the pan. Wait until the mustard oil smokes gently, changes colour to a pale yellow, and its raw smell dissipates.
4. Shallow fry the marinated brinjal on medium-low heat, flesh-side down first, and then skin-side, until light brown. These have a tendency to burn because of the sugar in the marinade, so be careful.
5. Serve hot.
• If you want to recreate the look where brinjal is fried with the stalk on, choose medium-sized, slender brinjals, each weighing not more than 80gm. Any larger than this, and the halves will not cook through.
• Begun bhaja can also be made with other types of brinjal. For example, if you are using large, round brinjal, simply cut them across the horizontal cross-section in 2cm slices, and follow the rest of the recipe as is.
• We scored the flesh in a criss-cross manner but this is not strictly necessary. There is no difference in taste or cooking time if you choose to simply halve/slice the brinjal and fry them. But if you feel like it, or if you want to impress guests, the diamond-shaped scoring pattern adds to the presentation.
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