Baigan choka (eggplant dip) is a robust flavoured Trinidadian side dish or vegetarian spread for flatbreads. The key to making traditional baigan choka is roasting the eggplant over an open flame and if you really want to excite the taste buds with even more flavor, you would place the eggplant on hot coals. On so many levels this is not always possible, especially if you live in temperate climates where having that fire in the middle of winter is not possible. Yes, you can always use the flame on your stove top, but if you’ve ever had to clean up that stove after – you’d never do it again. This baigan choka recipe is specifically for people who want the same sort of flavors, but with an easier and quicker method of achieving this. Students, you can even do this in a toaster oven.
INGREDIENTS 2 eggplant (about 2-3 lbs) 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoon olive oil 1 teaspoon veg oil 2 cloves garlic (divided) 1 scotch bonnet pepper
1 small onion
Set your oven to the broil setting (525°F) and as it gets to temp, lets prepare the eggplant. Trim off the stem area, make some slits in the eggplant and for maximum flavor, slice one of the cloves of garlic thinly and place them into the slits in the eggplant. Line a sturdy baking tray with tin foil so you won’t have a mess to clean up after. Place the eggplant and WHOLE scotch bonnet pepper and drizzle with the vegetable oil on the eggplant. Using your hands rub the oil around the eggplant and place it in the oven.
After 5 minutes, remove the scotch bonnet – it should be slightly charred now. In a heavy bowl (or mortar and pestle) place the scotch bonnet (remove the stem), remaining clove of garlic and salt and pound to a smooth paste. Remember to wash your hands with soap and water after handling such hot peppers. I used a slightly mature scotch bonnet so I get a tamed heat. Remember you can control the heat level by how much scotch bonnet you choose to use. After 25-30 mins at 525°F your eggplant should be perfectly cooked. Remove from the oven and slice down the center and using a table spoon, scoop out all that goodness and place in the same bowl we have the crushed pepper / garlic / salt.
Now crush the eggplant you scooped out until it’s somewhat smooth (you can do all of this with your mortar and pestle – I used a traditional “ponga”). Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan just until you start seeing smoke. In the meantime thinly slice the onion and place it on top of the eggplant mixture (do not mix it yet). Now pour the heat oil onto the onion (this is called chunka). By doing so we do two things. We get the rawness out of the sliced onion and we also pull some flavor out of the onion. Mix well baigan choka and serve.
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