I t is a known fact that a dish is often recreated in various regions as per their culinary nuances. One such dish is Baingan Bharta. The humble brinjal mishmash has been adapted by East Indian sectors in various ways. Bengal has its own version, popularly called Begun Pora. The method of making this dish is fairly simple. Whole brinjals are tempered over direct fire till the outer skin is completely charred and the inner contents become soft and juicy. This step lends the dish its name, since ‘pora’ in Bengali means burnt.
In ancient Bengal, Begun Pora was often considered an apt dish for a widow’s meal. During the times, widows were restricted to eating only boiled or charred vegetarian dishes as sort of penance for their husband’s demise. Their version of Begun Pora however did not contain onions or garlic (as both ingredients are considered non vegetarian).
But the more ubiquitous Baingan Bharta is a marriage of all such ingredients and some more. One key element in Begun Pora is mustard oil. Before putting it on an open fire, a generous coating of mustard oil is applied on the raw brinjal, so as to not pre-char the outer skin. But once the cooked vegetable is de-skinned, mustard oil is again used to mix the inner contents with chopped onions, garlic and chillies. Thinly diced tomatoes may also be added to the mix.
Begun Pora is often savoured with hot rotis (Indian flat breads) or even rice. However, it is also eaten with a bowl of puffed rice as the gooey texture is complementary to the crispy mouthfeel of muri (the local name for puffed rice).