Although primarily purple, eggplant can be white, yellow, brown, or pinkish. It is generally believed that egg-plant originated in India and then it spread to other Asian and European countries, including the United States.

Eggplant can be served boiled, fried, stuffed, curried, broiled, baked and pickled, with a number of combinations. It can be served as an appetizer, as a side or as a main dish.

In India, especially in West Bengal, no formal dinner is complete without begun bhanja , plain fried eggplant. At wedding feasts, it is a must. The popular breakfast among villagers and poor people in India is Rice Krispies and beguni (battered eggplant).

Eggplant, when fried, tends to soak up oil like a sponge, but if it is left on a plate for some time or on a strainer some of the oil will drain out.

STUFFED EGGPLANT, VEGETARIAN STYLE

(6 to 8 servings) 4 eggplants (1 pound each) 2 green onions, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 2 fresh ripe tomatoes, finely chopped 1/2 inch fresh ginger root, finely chopped 1 teaspoon black pepper 2 ounces fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped (optional) 1/4 cup lemon or lime juice 6 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) 2 egg yolks 8 large puris (Indian bread) or 8 small-sized Syrian bread 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt Salt to taste

In a baking dish, place the eggplants with 1/2 cup water in the oven. Bake them at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until tender. Remove eggplants from baking dish and chill. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out the pulp without damaging the skin.

In a blender, blend garlic, ginger root, tomato, black pepper, salt, lemon juice, egg yolk and yogurt.

In a skillet, heat ghee and fry chopped onions till tender. Add the blended mixture and cook for 4 minutes. Mix thoroughly with eggplant pulp. Cool the mixture at room temperature. Fill the eggplant skins with the mixture. Arrange each half on a crisp puri (Indian bread) or a small Syrian bread. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

CHINGRI BEGUN

(Eggplant With Shrimp)

(6 to 8 servings) 1 medium eggplant (1 1/2 pounds) 1 pound shrimp, cleaned, peeled and deveined 1 teaspoon cumin power 1 teaspoon chili powder 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder 1/2 teaspoon corriander powder 1/4 teaspoon garam masala 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste Oil for frying

Peel eggplant. Cut into 1/4-inch pieces. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoom tumeric powder and a pinch of salt over eggplant pieces. Heat oil and fry eggplant for 5 or 6 minutes or till tender. Remove eggplant from the pan and keep in a separate dish. Clean shrimp (devein) and wash thoroughly. Dry with paper towels. Mix shrimp with the rest of the turmeric powder and salt. Heat oil and add the above spices. Fry 2 to 3 minutes. Add shrimp and fry for 4 to 5 minutes until white and tender. Add cooked eggplant and heat for another 2 minutes. Serve hot.

BEGUNEE

(Battered Eggplant)

(8 to 10 servings) 1 medium eggplant, very thinly sliced 8 tablespoons graham floor or besan 1/2 teaspoon chili powder 1 teaspoon poppy seed (poosta) 1/2 teaspoon salt Oil for frying

Remove the stem and cut the eggplant in two equal halves. Slice each half into very thin pieces (a little smaller than 1/4 inch). Set aside in a plate. Mix graham flour, chili powder, poppy seed and salt with water to make a medium consistency batter. Heat oil. Dip each eggplant slice into the batter mixture and deep fry each piece for a minute or two. Dry excess oil on a paper towel. Serve hot.

It can be served as a cocktail with tomato ketchup or as a side finger dish.

EGGED EGGPLANTS

(6 to 7 servings) 2 medium eggplants 3 eggs beaten 1 cup oil 1 teaspoon turmeric powder 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder 1 cup bread crumbs, finely ground Salt

Peel the eggplants and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Sprinkle with salt and let stand for 20 minutes. Dry eggplant slices with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides with turmeric powder. Beat the eggs thoroughly. Mix bread crumbs with cumin powder and ginger powder. Coat eggplant slices with breadcrumb mixture and dip each slice in the beaten eggs. In a deep frying pan, heat oil. Fry eggplant slices till brownish on both sides.Drain excess oil on paper towels. Serve either cold or hot with any meat or fish dish.

EGGPLANT SMELTS

CHACHCHARI

(6 to 8 servings) 2 pounds fresh smelts 2 pounds eggplant, thinly sliced 1 small onion, finely chopped 1 1/4 inch ginger root, finely chopped 2 teaspoons cumin powder 1 teaspoon turmeric powder 1 1/4 teaspoon chili powder Salt to taste Oil for frying and cooking

Mix smelts with turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Heat oil in a deep frying pan. Fry smelts in batches for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove in a dish and let it chill in room temperature for 3 to 4 minutes. With a fine fork and finger remove the backbone from each smelt. Fry onion in the same oil used for frying smelts. Add eggplant, ginger, cumin, and chili powder. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes stirring constantly. Now add smelts. Mix well. Cook for 2 additional minutes in medium heat. Serve hot either with rice or chapatis.

BEGUN BHANJA

(Fried Eggplant)

(5 to 6 servings) 1 medium eggplant, sliced 1 teaspoon turmeric powder 1/2 teaspoon salt Oil for frying

Slice eggplant about 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle turmeric powder and salt over the eggplant slices and rub well to get a uniform coating of turmeric powder and salt.

In a frying pan deep-fry 2 or 3 pieces at a time turning sides or till brownish.

Serve hot or cold as a side dish with any main dish.

CREAMED EGGPLANT

(4 to 6 servings) 1 medium eggplant (1 1/4 to 1/2 pounds) 1/2 cup finely chopped onion 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger 1/2 teaspoon cumin 1 cup sour cream 2 tablespoons white wine 1 teaspoon salt Oil for frying Paprika

Peel eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Sprinkle with salt, let stand 5 minutes. Dry and fry in oil until lightly browned on both sides. Drain. Drain excess oil from pan and saute onions and ginger until limp, add cumin and salt. Add sour cream an wine to pan, cook 2 to 3 minutes. Place eggplant in 1 quart casserole - pour sour cream mixture over it. Bake 10 to 12 minutes in preheated 350-degree oven. Garnish with paprika. Serve hot or cold.