Vangi Bath (South Indian Eggplant Rice)
One of the tastiest mixed rice dishes from south India is Vangi Bath, a one-dish meal of creamy eggplants melting into rice. Tying them together is a simple masala blend of lentils and coriander, with peanuts, coconut and curry leaves adding more flavor and dimension. This is an easy recipe, ready in under 30 minutes. Serve with poppadum for a healthy, nourishing meal. A vegan, gluten-free, soy-free recipe, can be nut-free.
A south Indian eggplant rice called Vangi Bath is one of my favorite ways to cook with eggplants in the summer, when they are at their seasonal best.
Eggplants (brinjals, aubergines) are a soothing vegetable, with their creamy, comforting flavor that melds effortlessly into whatever you cook it with. They are especially delicious when paired with rice and spices; sponge-like as they are they soak up the spices and then melt into the rice. Very likely, the memory of this dish will stay with you long after you’ve licked up every last bit of it.
Eggplant rice is cooked different ways across India, and where I grew up, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, we make a vangi bhath that has more spices and vegetables, and that is often served at weddings.
The vangi bhat (pronounced with a soft “t”) I have for you today is from Tamil Nadu, the land of my in-laws. It is simpler, with fewer ingredients, but no less delicious. And Desi, the resident Tamilian hereabouts, likes it better. 😉
- It’s savory. A special spice mix with just a few ingredients infuses every grain of rice and the eggplant with delicious flavor.
- It’s nutritious. Eggplants are one of the healthiest veggies you can eat and with rice they make a wholesome, healthy meal you’ll feel good about eating and serving your family.
- It’s a one-dish recipe. Although not one pot, because you need a separate pot to cook the rice. But all the health you need is inside this vangi bhat and all you need to serve with it is a poppadum.
- It takes under 30 minutes to make. This dish comes together really quickly, making it a great recipe for the weeknight or weekends when you don’t want to spend a long time cooking but would still like to eat well.
- 3 cups cooked rice (like basmati or any long-grain rice that will stay separate after cooking.)
- 2 tsp coconut oil (divided)
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 sprigs curry leaves
- 1 pound eggplants (Cut into a small, 1-cm dice. Try and use thin-skinned Japanese, Indian or Chinese varieties. You can use the Italian eggplant with acceptable results, but it shouldn’t be your first choice).
- ¼ cup peanuts (pounded or processed to a coarse powder. You can leave some larger pieces in for texture. Leave out the peanuts if nut-free.)
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp urad dal (black gram dal)
- 1 tbsp chana dal (Bengal gram dal)
- 2 dry red chili peppers (use only one if sensitive to heat)
- ½ tsp turmeric (optional)