I guess that's why I was a little apprehensive to try out Trader Joe's Baingan Bharta, aka "Authentic Indian Eggplant Curry." Both Nathan and I have had some great luck with TJ-themed Indian dishes, so it wasn't that part. It was that scary word "eggplant." I truly didn't know what to expect, and so this hung out in the freezer for a couple weeks until I finally worked up the gumption to stuff into my man bag before another day of living in my cubicle.
After zapping it for about five minutes, it was finally done, and it definitely smelled good. And man, is it aromatic. There's the usual Indian season suspects of turmeric, coriander, garlic and cumin that a lot of depth to the flavor and spice of this dish. Appearancewise, the Baingan Bharta pretty closely resembles a plastic tray of brownish mush with some little green things that I presume are teeny bay leave bits here and there. As for taste, it's pretty good, and it tastes like all those seasonings listed above and not much else. About the only things that made me remember it was eggplant was the squishy-squashy texture and the couple seeds floating around (sorry, diverticultis sufferers, another TJ treat you can't have). It was good enough that I made an effort to scrape out every bit I could without looking like too much of a lunchroom freak.
That's not to say it was perfect. In fact, there were two kinda major flaws. First, perhaps this is more my American sensibility than anything, but it coulda used some rice along with it. TJ's gives you some rice with other good Indian lunches, why not this one? Altogether, the Bharta seemed a little, well, incomplete. Secondly, hmm, okay, how to put this delicately...let's just say I had to take an additional short break that afternoon to answer a call, and it wasn't from the collections agency calling for the woman who used to have my cellphone number, either. I like to think I have a fairly strong stomach (after all, I ate these and was fine) but this caused a little mild tummy trouble. That doesn't bother me too terribly much, but that may for others, I presume.
I cannot vouch for its authenticity, as I really don't know what Baingan Bharta is "supposed" to taste like. That's okay, I think. Probably Trader Joe's didn't sign off on this dish thinking it was just like what is made right in Punjab...it's offered to the typical American consumer, you and I, to hopefully introduce us to a type of dish we may not otherwise try, and if we like it, seek out a better version. Next time Sandy and I go to an Indian restaurant, I definitely won't be so adverse to try it if I see it, thanks to this lunch. For a smallscale cultural awakening and an alright lunch, there's worse ways to spend about $3 somewhere, though I'm not sure how quick I'd be to run out and buy this particular version again.
Sandy's a little more veggie adverse than I, so she decided to sit this one out and leave this all to me. I'm thinking she'd like it if she'd try it out, but, eh, what can ya do. Based on the two issues above, but otherwise enjoying this tray o' goodness, I think something like double 3's may be in order...yup, sounds good to me. What about you?
Bottom line: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons
*Dear friends and family members reading this, please note I used the qualifiers of "seemed" and "fairly." Share some dirt on me, be sure it'll come back on ya :).
**Or, as my neighbor calls this huge honkin' plants manhandling our raised bed out front, "Russell sprouts." Haha, never heard that one before...he recommends roasting in the oven with a little olive oil and salt. Any other recommendations? We're gonna have a lot of them.