If there’s one crib my friends and family from Bengaluru have when they dine in other parts of South India, it’s how a lot of the dishes are not served piping hot. One of the state’s most popular dishes comes with a ‘bisi’ (Hot) prefix – Bisi Bele Bath, almost as a reminder about how this dish needs to be served. While that’s the case for most dishes – from Kesri Bath to Kara Bath, there’s another set of ‘pre-mixed’ rice dishes that are mandatorily served at room temperature. Vangi Bath probably tops that list.
While aubergines might not figure on the ‘favourite vegetable lists’ of most people, it’s certainly on top of mine. I’ve marvelled at the sheer versatility of this vegetable - from Mousakka to a traditional Kathirkai (eggplant) Kuzhambu, and have often blacklisted aunts and relatives who use this vegetable unimaginatively. Very few people in Bengaluru are on that list and that’s largely because they can dish out the most scrumptious Vangi Bath.
Vangi (Brinjal) Bath has a strong association with Mysuru. It’s not unusual to find this dish on wedding menus in and around the city. It’s also because the dish’s key ingredient – the bottle-shaped green brinjal is commonly found in these parts. This flavour-packed brinjal actually manages to hold its own despite the presence of a bunch of spices that come together in a unique Vangi Bath Masala. Not long ago, you had to source this masala from traditional shops in Karnataka. I still remember buying the Vangi Bath powder at a tiny shop in Kalasa near Kudremukh that almost packed the same flavours as a freshly ground home masala. But ready-made masala is also available at supermarkets across India, cutting the prep time for this dish and making it easy to dish it out for guests who overstay for dinner.
The masala is only one part of the equation, the brinjal is actually the key and if you struggle to find green brinjal, you can substitute with the longer bottle-shaped brinjal but never the rounded variants. It’s also common in Mysuru to combine brinjal with green capsicum. In fact it’s not unusual to substitute brinjal with other vegetables (including cauliflower) and follow the same cooking technique with the Vangi Bath masala. But it’s not quite a Vangi Bath without the vangi. This dish often gets compared with the Puliyogare but there are quite a few differences. The Puliyogare has a longer shelf life, is more spicy and is cooked with a lot more oil.
Vangi Bath is usually served with a Mosaru Bajji (raita) or Sandige (rice crispies) or Happala (Papad) but it’s one of those dishes that is perfect for a small office lunch box where there’s no room for accompaniments. My mother and aunt never use a packaged Vangi Bath masala opting instead to grind the masala every single time they make Vangi Bath. This is their standard mix for the powder:
Vangi Bath Powder
2 Tbsp Bengal gram (channa dal) 2 Tbsp black gram (urad dal) 3 Tbsp coriander seeds 5-6 Tbsp red chillies (Bedige or Kashmiri) 1 cinnamon stick 1 cardamom 3 cloves ½ tsp poppy seeds 1 nutmeg flower (javithri) ¼ tsp peppercorns ¼ tsp cumin seeds ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds 2 Tbsp copra (dried coconut or you can substitute with fresh coconut) Salt to taste ½ tsp turmeric powder
1. Roast (without oil) channa dal, then add urad dal, coriander seeds, poppy seeds and red chillies, adding one ingredient at a time
2. Add all the other spices to this mix and continue to roast.
3. Add the dried coconut to this mix, then add salt and turmeric powder and blend in a mixer after roasting for a while.
I find it much easier to use a packaged Vangi Bath powder with my mother’s fail safe recipe:
Vangi Bath (Serves 4)
¼ kg green brinjal, chopped 2 Tbsp cooking oil 4 Tbsp Vangi Bath powder 1-2 Tbsp ghee ½ tsp mustard seeds 1 ½ tsp Bengal gram (channa dal) 1 ½ tsp black gram (urad dal) 2 sprigs curry leaves A pinch of asafoetida ½ tsp sugar ½ tsp turmeric Salt: to taste A small ball of tamarind ½ cup peanuts and/or cashew nuts 3 cups rice (cooked) A few sprigs coriander
1. Temper the mustard, channa dal and urad dal (use only ½ teaspoon of these two dals if you are making the Vangi Bath masala yourself). Also add the curry leaves and asafoetida.
2. Add the rest of the oil and shallow fry the brinjal.
3. Add the turmeric, salt and sugar to the brinjal.
4. Add the tamarind extract (from the small ball of tamarind – you can use warm water for this).
5. Add the masala and toss brinjals delicately in the pan. You can add a small quantity of green peas (optional).
6. Close the dish with a lid for a few minutes after the brinjal is cooked.
7. Cool down the cooked rice (ensure the rice is not hot or soggy) and mix the ghee with the rice. Then add the entire vangi mix and stir slowly.
8. Shallow fry the nuts and add it along with freshly chopped coriander as a garnish.
About the Author:
Ashwin Rajagopalan is a cross cultural training expert and lifestyle writer. When he's not writing about food, he thinks about gadgets, trends and travel experiences. He enjoys communicating across cultures and borders in his weekday work avatar as a content and editorial consultant for a global major and one of India's only cross cultural trainers.
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