Indo-Caribbean Eggplant (Baingan) Choka

Eggplant choka

There’s chokha and there’s choka.

Chokha is a rustic vegetable dish (usually featuring either potatoes, tomatoes or eggplant) cooked and coarsely mashed, topped with enough fresh green chillies, raw garlic and pungent mustard oil to warrant a hazmat suit. It’s a rustic staple in Bihar and Jharkhand where it is traditionally served with litti – whole wheat dumplings stuffed with gram flour.

A chokha is not a bharta, which is more delicate and has a wider array of seasonings like cumin, cardamoms and cloves.

Choka is the Indo-Caribbean variant of the same dish. From 1838 to 1917, after the abolition of slavery in the U.S., over half a million indentured laborers from British India (mainly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar) were brought by the British, French and Dutch to the Caribbean. It has evolved into a subtler, more urbane version. The second ‘h’ is missing along with the raw mustard oil. A more neutral cooking medium takes its place. The garlic is roasted with the eggplant, a tomato makes it way in and the accompaniment of choice is a wheat flatbread (either sada roti or paratha) made with refined flour.

When my my dear friend Cynthia send me a copy of her Caribbean cookbook Tastes Like Home, page 108 with Eggplant Choka was the first one I happened to open. I’m glad I did.

This is a kicked-up avatar of baba ghanouj. Choka takes the same amount of time to prepare and has become my preferred method to cook eggplant.

EGGPLANT (BAINGAN) CHOKA

from Tastes Like Home: My Caribbean Cookbook (p. 108-109) by Cynthia Nelson

Eggplant from last year's garden.

Eggplant from last year's garden.

What
  • 1.5 pounds eggplant/aubergine/brinjal (preferably the fat Italian variety)

  • 4 large cloves of garlic (I used two)

  • minced fresh chillies to taste

  • 1-2 tbsps oil

    • mustard oil/extra virgin olive oil or ghee – see note below

  • 3 green onions (white and green parts) thinly sliced

  • 1 large tomato (optional)

    • or 2 tbsps chopped sun-dried tomatoes

  • salt to taste

WHY

Use either unrefined mustard oil or extra virgin olive oil or ghee (clarified butter). Mustard oil is a healthier cousin of canola (rapeseed) and has a better flavour too. Explained HERE.
Please do not use vegetable/seed oils or canola oil. They are high in polyunsaturated and trans fats, with inflammatory and toxic effects.

WHERE
Mustard Oil
You get unrefined mustard oil at Indian/Bangladeshi stores. Ignore the “for external use only” label, ‘cos the folks at the FDA know nothing about nutrition or flavour.
eggplant choka

Basalt cobek and ulek ulek (mortar and pestle) from Indonesia.

HOW
  1. You can roast the eggplant directly on a flame using tongs, but I prefer the broiler method. Cut the eggplant/s in half and place it on a cookie sheet lined with foil or silicone. If using foil, oil it. Place the eggplant halves cut side down and oil the skin. This helps it loosen better later.

  2. Slice the garlic cloves into long, thin pieces. Make slits in the eggplant/s and stick the garlic slices in them. Place the tomato next to the eggplant.

  3. Broil on HIGH for between 14 and 20 minutes (it depends on how big the eggplant is). The skin will char and turn crackly. Turn the tomato at around 6 minutes and take it out when the skin is dark and blistered (around 12 minutes).

  4. Let the eggplant cool for a few minutes. Then peel off the skin from the eggplant and tomato and discard the seeds. Chop the pulp coarsely and set aside.

  5. Mash the eggplant and tomato with salt until pulpy, but still with a bit of texture. You can use either a mortar and pestle, a fork or a food processor for this.

  6. Add the oil, chillies and finely chopped green onions. Mix and serve. If you want it tangier, add a dash of lime.

  7. Tastes better the next day.

eggplant choka

Eggplant Choka in Romaine boats with salad, figs and spiced boiled eggs.

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Comments

  1. Mmmnnnnn Mnnnnnnn.. YUMMM !!! :)

  2. So glad I read all the way to the end. There is nearly nothing I love to eat that does not fall into that wondrous category “tastes better the next day”. Eggplant can be a hard sell around here – I think this preparation might just make a convert or two. And, as I contemplate this year’s veggie garden – getting the “fat Italian” variety of eggplant started in our garden just moved to the top of the to-do list!

  3. Umm..you have two of my favorite things on that platter..eggplant and figs. Figs have been off the shelves here in Texas for a couple of months now. Do you grow them? My toddler and I have been making do with dried figs. Not the same! Sadly when it comes to eggplants, I’m the only one in our home who eats them. So, I don’t cook with them often. This dish looks mouth watering.

  4. That looks really good! I just bought some eggplant, today!

  5. P.S. Spiced boiled eggs!? Recipe, please! ;-)

  6. Love the concept of eggplant in the romaine boats…truly unique. Also love the way you mention ” tastes better the next day”…can’t wait to try this one!

  7. So glad to see your new site, Jai and Bee!

    My grandma makes a very similar dish, she’s from Tamilnadu though. throws oiled brinjals and tomatoes in the hot coals when she’s cooking something else and makes a mishmash of those and adds cilantro and garlic.. yumm! I think she also adds some thick tamarind juice as well.

    I’m going to try the choka version with mustard oil. Still haven’t found the courage to try lettuce leaves for wraps… I found some coconut wraps at upaya naturals, might try it as a wrap.

  8. Oh the onions and chillies are fresh?..sounds very interesting..I normally saute it before adding, of course as you said that becomes a bharta..:)..somehow I just remembered the Feb 4 ..congrats!

  9. Love the bharta serves on romaine. eggplants are a hard sell in my house too unless well roasted and cooked.

    Please do drop by the Auction fundraiser to help VSPCA,India on my blog, to bid or share. Shipping is available in US, India, and some international. They work to rescue all animals, provide permanent sanctuary and also help feed vegan meals to the poor.
    http://hobbyandmore.blogspot.com/p/fundraiser-for-vspca.html

  10. Sheetal says:

    Where are you guys…been ages now…Waiting….

  11. Very interesting. I almost bought into your logic about paloe food, and then I came into this npr article:
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2012/07/26/157370769/gut-check-should-you-embrace-our-mostly-vegetarian-past

    This argues that we have been following the paleo diet relatively recently and our stomachs have also not evolved compared to the other primates (who are primarily vegetarian). Also, I must mention that the tribals you point doesn’t lead the sedentary lives we lead (even extreme exercising compared to these people would be sedentary).

  12. Missing your blog! HoPe to see you back in action in 2013. Wishing you a great year ahead.

  13. Sheetal says:

    1+ year to this post..:( Where are you guys?

  14. Hope all’s well with you guyz. Your jugalbandi is keeping me satisfied until you get back in action here :) Thanks

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