Baba ghanoush Arabic بابا غنوج bābā ghanūj, bābā ghanūj, baba ganush, baba ghannouj or baba ghannoug is a Levantine dish of eggplant (aubergine) mashed and mixed with virgin olive oil and various seasonings. The Arabic term means “father of coquetry”, which has been interpreted to suggest that it was invented by a member of a harem, although “ghanoush” may be a personal name.
A popular preparation method is for the eggplant to be baked or broiled over an open flame before peeling, so that the pulp is soft and has a smoky taste. Often, it is eaten as a dip with khubz or pita bread, and is sometimes added to other dishes. It is usually of an earthy light-brown colour. It is popular in the Levant (area covering Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Kurdistan, Egypt, and Israel).
A similar dish is known as mutabbal (متبل literally ‘spiced’) in the Levant.
Baba Ghanoush around the world
In Lebanon, baba ghanoush is a starter or appetiser; in Egypt it is mostly served as a side dish or salad. It is made of eggplant blended with finely diced onions, tomatoes, and other vegetables. It is made of roasted, peeled, and mashed eggplant, blended with tahini, garlic, salt, white vinegar and lemon juice. Cumin and chilli powder can be added. It is normally served with a dressing of olive oil and pomegranate concentrate. In the traditional method, the eggplant is first roasted in an oven for approximately 30 to 90 minutes (depending on the size of the eggplant) until the skin appears almost burnt and the eggplant begins to collapse. The softened flesh is scooped out, squeezed or salted to remove excess water, and is then pureed with the tahini. There are many variants of the recipe, especially the seasoning. Seasonings include garlic, lemon juice, ground cumin, salt, mint, and parsley. When served on a plate or bowl, it is traditional to drizzle the top with olive oil.
It is eaten in Turkey, where a similar meze is called patlıcan salatası (meaning “eggplant salad”). In Turkey, patlıcan salatası is made with mashed eggplants while baba ghanoush is cut not mashed. The baba ghanoush can be found (with cut eggplants) in southern Turkey, especially in Antakya. Also as the name Baba means father in Arabic and Turkish (ultimately from Persian), in the regions where Arab population is large, the other word used in Arabic for father, Abu, is sometimes used and therefore it can be known as Abu-Gannoush. And, in Greece, it is called melitzanosalata (μελιτζανοσαλάτα; “eggplant salad”). In Israel, both the traditional version made with tahina and a variation made with mayonnaise is widely available. There is also Bulgarian eggplant salad/spread called kyopolou кьополу.
In Palestinian homes, it is made with “wild” eggplants known as “baladi” (from Arabic ‘of the earth, indigenous’). It is made with tahini, olive oil, lemon and parsley.
In Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi cuisines, Baingan ka Bhurta is a dish similar to baba ghanoush. It is similarly prepared by grilling eggplant over open charcoal flame to impart a smoky flavour to the flesh. It is then cooked with an assortment of spices, tomatoes, garlic, and onions. It is commonly served with breads like paratha, roti, and naan.
In Punjab province of Pakistan and West India, tomatoes and chopped onion are added to roasted eggplant along with various seasonings. The dish, typically served with a naan bread or tandoori roti, is called Bharta. Another variant called ‘Badenjaan Borani’ is served in Afghanistan and Pakistan and uses yoghurt and onions.
In Romania, the eggplant spread is called “Salată de vinete” (eggplant salad). The eggplants are prepared and cooked the same as above (roasted over open-flame fire or oven). Then they are peeled, drained very well, and chopped with tocător de vinete, a special wide-blade wooden knife, which resembles a small meat cleaver. It is said that the eggplant is not to touch metal in the process; however, with the convenience of food processors for chopping and mixing, people nowadays stray from the old ways. After finely chopping the eggplants into a paste, seasonings are added and everything mixed together: salt, ground black pepper, (sunflower) oil, and traditionally, finely chopped (or grated) onion. A variant is replacing the onion with garlic “mujdei de usturoi”. It is served (spread) on a slice of bread. Traditionally, the chopped onion is served separately and mixed at the table by each guest. It may be served also accompanied by roasted (kapia) peppers salad (oil/vinegar dressing). The light colour of the spread and the absence of seeds are most appreciated. It is somewhat popular in areas heavily influenced by the Middle Eastern diaspora, as in Southeastern Brazil, and its presence has made eggplant more popular in almost all countries, although it was first introduced by either Iberians or West African slaves.
- 3 medium-sized eggplants
- ½ cup tahini (sesame paste)
- 1¼ teaspoons coarse salt
- 3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- ⅛ teaspoon chilli powder
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- a half bunch picked flat-leaf parsley or coriander leaves
- Preheat the oven to 190°C.
- Prick each eggplant a few times, then char the outside of the eggplants by placing them directly on the flame of a gas burner and as the skin chars, turn them until the eggplants are uniformly-charred on the outside. (If you don’t have a gas stove, you can char them under the broiler. If not, skip to the next step.)
- Place the eggplants on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until they’re completely soft; you should be able to easily poke a paring knife into them and meet no resistance.
- Remove from oven and let cool.
- Split the eggplant and scrape out the pulp. Puree the pulp in a blender or food processor with the other ingredients until smooth.
- Taste, and season with additional salt and lemon juice, if necessary. Serve drizzle with olive oil, perhaps some herbs and with crackers, sliced baguette, or toasted pita chips for dipping.