Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Recipe of the month: Rava Vangi Bhath

Vangi bhath is a South-Indian breakfast/lunch dish that I am extremely fond of. It is a hearty vegetarian (can also be made vegan), one-pot, delicious and wholesome dish.

Basically, it consists of rice or semolina (also known as rava) cooked with eggplant/brinjal and flavored with a powdered spice mixture known as vangi bhath masala. Although it is made more often using rice, I like the rava version much better. I love eggplants so I tend to be a fan of any dish that uses this versatile vegetable. My mum makes delicious rava vangi bhath and she knows how much I like it so she makes it a point to make it for me whenever I'm around. During the avarekai season (avarekai is also known as surti papdi lilva; scientific name: hyacinth beans; similar to field beans), women especially in my home state of Karnataka have a tendency to add avarekai to almost every dish and rava vangi bhath containing avarekai is something that I pine for. It doesn't get any better than that for me! Unfortunately avarekai is not available all year round so green peas is used as a substitute. 

This dish features as a staple on our weekend breakfast menu. I learnt how to make it to appease my own palate but I'm glad that my hubby loves it too.

I observed my mom while making rava vangi bhath and over the years, I've developed my own method of making it. The first couple of times, I used to notice the rava forming lumps which would actually cause me to gag while eating because it is kinda disgusting. After I figured out how to overcome that problem, there was no turning back. I am very particular about the type of rava I use (either to make vangi bhath or regular upma) so even though there are a variety of acceptable quality brands available in Singapore, I get my rava only from India. After every holiday in India, I come back to Singapore with a bag filled with a few packets of what I consider, the best quality rava (yes I am that finicky!).

If you have never tried this recipe before, I hope you will be inspired to do so now. If you love eggplants, you are definitely a candidate for this dish and in case you are not a fan, you can still try it out to see if it turns you into one!

Vangi Bhath

Preparation time: 20 min; Cooking time: 20 min
Total time: 40 min
Serves 2-3
Recipe category: Breakfast/South Indian
Recipe level: Easy 
Recipe source: Amma


1 cup medium rava/semolina
2 cups eggplant/brinjal, sliced lengthwise
2 medium red onions, chopped
3-4 green chillies, slit vertically (adj acc to spice level)
10-12 curry leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal
1 tsp chana dal/split chickpea lentil
a pinch of hing/asafoetida, Optional
5-6 tsp of vangi bhath powder (I use the MTR brand)
1/2 tsp tamarind paste or a marble-sized ball of tamarind
1 tsp jaggery/whole cane sugar or substitute with white sugar
a handful of cashewnuts, slit vertically
1/2 cup cooked peas
3 cups water
1 large bunch coriander leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp grated fresh coconut, Optional
1 tsp vegetable oil
3 tsp ghee**
Salt to taste (approx 11/2 tsp)

**Vegans can substitute ghee with vegetable oil


1. Dry roast the rava (or else you can roast it in 1-2 tbsp ghee) in a deep bottomed vessel on low flame until the rava turns golden brown and gives out a good aroma. Keep aside in a separate plate or bowl.

2. Meanwhile, chop the onions, curry leaves and slit the green chillies and cashewnuts.

3. Using the same vessel, heat 1 tsp of ghee and fry the cashew nuts until golden brown. Keep aside.

4. Now heat 1 tsp of oil with 2 tsp ghee and temper with mustard seeds, urad dal, chana dal, curry leaves and a pinch of hing. Once everything is sizzling and the urad dal starts to turn light brown, add in the onions and green chillies.

5. As the onion is frying, wash the eggplant and cut it into lengthwise pieces. Dissolve the tamarind (paste or whole tamarind) in 1 cup of warm water and immerse the chopped eggplant into it. I avoid chopping the eggplant too much in advance since it has a tendency to discolor with time due to oxidation.

6. Once the onion turns translucent, add in the chopped eggplant. Retain the tamarind water for later. Add 1/2 tsp of salt, jaggery and the vangi bhath powder and give it a good stir. Cover the vessel with a lid. Sprinkle the tamarind water occasionally so there is enough moisture in the skillet to let the eggplant cook. I usually taste a piece to make sure it is almost cooked. Eggplant acts as a great canvas for other flavors so make sure that as it cooks, there are elements of salt, sweet, spicy and sour incorporated along with it. 

7. Now add 3 cups of water, approx 1 tsp salt, cooked peas and bring to a boil. Once the water starts boiling, turn the heat to low. Now very slowly and intermittently add in the roasted rava and keep stirring continuously until all the rava is incorporated. I use a whisk for this purpose and it works well.

8. Let it cook on low flame and cover the vessel with a lid. Let the rava cook for a few minutes. You will notice that the water starts to get absorbed and the vangi bhath thicken. Give the mixture a stir. Mix in the fried cashew nuts and grated fresh coconut.

9. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

10. Serve hot!

  • You can use any variety of eggplant for this dish. I use the green-pinkish oval variety or the small oval purple kind. Make sure the eggplants are clean and free of bugs. The cooking time depends on the variety of eggplant. 
  • It is very important that the rava does not form lumps when you mix it into the water. When you are at this step, switch off the heat, sprinkle in the rava slowly and keep mixing continuously. Take someone's help if you find it difficult. 
  • Keep the lid closed as the vangi bhath is cooking as the rava has a tendency to spit
  • This dish tastes best when it is eaten hot. The consistency of the bhath changes once it cools down. If you refrigerate it, then make sure you microwave for a few seconds before serving. 



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