Baigan choka is a popular breakfast side dish in Trinidad. It is made with roasted eggplant and garlic, all mashed together and mixed with onions, seasonings, and hot oil.
It’s delicious especially when served with sada roti, tomato choka, or any choka really!
Baigan choka origins
Baigan is the local name for eggplant (or melongene or aubergine).
The term actually comes from the Hindi word for the fruit: baingan. Yes, it’s a fruit – a berry actually – and not a vegetable. Choka is another Hindi word and refers to roasted veggies.
So, it’s obvious that this dish has East Indian roots.
In India today, the two most similar dishes are baingan ka chokha and baingan bharta.
Baingan ka choka is made by roasting eggplants, removing their charred skins and mashing the flesh. Then, all other added ingredients are raw – onions, garlic, pepper, salt, cilantro leaves and mustard oil. Tomatoes are sometimes used too.
Baingan bharta is also made by roasting eggplants, removing their skins and mashing the flesh. Then, onions, garlic, ginger, pepper and tomatoes are sauteed in mustard (or vegetable) oil. Once cooked, the mashed eggplant is added and cooked in the tomato sauce.
In Trinidad, we don’t make a distinction between the two – we call both baigan choka. And we often leave the tomatoes out (we use them to make to make tomato choka instead). Besides that, mustard oil is not widely used in Caribbean cooking.
Baba ganoush is a Mediterranean dish that is also made by roasting eggplant. The cooked flesh is blended together with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and seasonings. Baba ganoush and baigan choka are very different dishes and have different flavor profiles.
What is in baigan choka
This baigan choka recipe needs:
- large smooth-skinned eggplants (I used ones from my garden)
- garlic cloves
I don’t use tomatoes in my choka, but feel free to add some in if you like.
How to make baigan choka
Baigan choka isn’t difficult to make once you’re prepared for the clean-up.
Roasting eggplant for choka
To make the choka, wash the eggplant before making large slits in the flesh. I made really long ones but I won’t recommend doing this (your garlic will fall it).
Place whole garlic cloves in these slits. You can slice the garlic into smaller pieces but, it isn’t necessary, the cloves will fit within the large slits.
Next, place the eggplant on an open flame. You can use your gas stove top for this or your grill. Both will give you the same effect.
Allow the eggplant to roast on one side.
As the eggplant cooks, liquid and steam will bubble and escape from the slits. The liquid will fall onto your stove burner so it’s important to clean up after making this dish. Or line it with foil for easier clean-up.
After a couple minutes, rotate the eggplant and continue roasting. Be sure the entire fruit is exposed to the open flame.
If your garlic cloves fall out of the slits, then pop them back in. Or use a tongs or fork and hold them over the flame for a couple seconds to char. Then, remove from the heat and set aside.
Continue rotating the eggplant. By this point, the skin should be charred and the eggplant should be completely soft and losing its shape.
After 15 minutes or so of roasting, remove the eggplant from the heat and place on a large tray or plate.
Making baigan choka
Using a knife, cut the baigan along its length.
Scrape the roasted flesh and garlic away from the charred skin.
Place in a small bowl and, using the back of a fork, mash the eggplant and garlic until smooth. Add salt.
At this point, you can customize the dish to your heart’s desire. You can add in raw, chopped onions, chopped pepper, cilantro and culantro leaves, tomatoes and oil.
Leaving everything raw will make the choka have a strong, sharp taste. The raw onions and smokiness of the roasted eggplant will dominate the dish.
I personally prefer to cook the onions. So, in a small cast iron pot, I usually add coconut oil and sauté onions and pepper. Once that’s done, I add the sauteed veggies to the eggplant. I don’t use any tomatoes in my usual recipe.
The oil is important – it slows down the oxidation of the eggplant flesh. Over time, it will go from a light creamish-green to a brown-greyish color. The oil slows that color change so it’s a must.
If you want to eliminate the oil for a healthier recipe, then make baigan choka to be eaten immediately. Don’t leave it to stand for long.
Serve baigan choka alongside tomato choka and sada roti. This is a common breakfast option in Trinidad – besides doubles of course.
You can also eat the choka with hops bread, crackers, and coconut bake. Enjoy.
Important tips for making the choka
You’ll want to use eggplants that are smooth-skinned and slightly soft to the touch. These are not as mature, which means their seeds are not as larger. Younger eggplants are great for making choka and their seeds are much softer and easier to roast.
You should also line your gas stove with foil. The foil will catch all the eggplant drippings so cleaning up is a breeze – simply lift the foil and throw it away.
You should place a wire rack over your stove burner. You can also use a roasting basket too. This will ensure the roasting eggplant will maintain its shape as it cooks and not fall apart directly onto the stove burner.
Lastly, be sure to roast the entire eggplant from the top to its end. Sometimes, the stem is not left long enough over the flames to cook properly. So, give it its time in the heat.
Baigan Choka Recipe
Trini Style Baigan Choka Recipe
- 2 eggplants
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 onion chopped
- oil for sautéing
- pepper to taste
- salt to taste
- tomatoes optional
- Wash the eggplants.
- Cut slits into them.
- Push garlic cloves into these slits.
- Place the eggplants on a wire rack over an open flame (on a gas stove top or grill).
- Allow to roast for five minutes.
- Rotate and continue roasting until the skins are completely charred and the eggplants are soft.
- When completely soft (about 15 minutes), remove from the heat.
- Place a small pot on medium heat.
- Add oil and allow to heat up.
- Sauté chopped onions and pepper.
- Back to the eggplants, cut along their length.
- Pull the skin apart and remove from the cooked flesh.
- Place in a small bowl with the roasted garlic cloves.
- Using the back of a fork, mash the cooked flesh until smooth.
- Add salt, sautéed onions, pepper, and any other seasonings or tomatoes.
- Serve hot with roti or other Trini foods.
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