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Monday, April 8, 2019

G for Gutti Vankaya Biryani (Stuffed Eggplant Biryani)

The biryanis which originated in the royal kitchens of India under Muslim regime were predominantly meat based. The vegetarian versions of the recent era are substitutes to these traditional versions to suit the palates of vegetarians. There have been recently regional twists to these meatless meals to come up with an umpteen number of vegetarian and vegan options in the pulao / biryani section. Gutti vankaya biryani is one such dish I came across during my last summer visit to India. There was a birthday in the family and a nephew of ours, who happens to be a great fan of biryanis ordered a couple of them online. They were gutti vankaya biryani and pandumirapakaya pachadi biryani, which were obviously and heavily inspired by Andhra cuisine, though we were in Bangalore.

Pandu miarapakaya pachadi is a classic Andhra pickle made with red, ripe chillies while 'gutti vankaya koora' is a stuffed brinjal preparation from the region that is quite popular. I cannot stand the smell of garlic and so didn't taste either of them. Even adults who love garlic and are used to the heat of Andhra cuisine started to sniffle and started to complain about the overly spicy and garlicky rice. However I thought they were two great adaptations with local flare. If you take out Hyderabad from the region, I don't think there are any traditional biryanis left that is distinctly Andhra flavored. A gutti vankaya biryani is one of those new era biryanis which can be easily associated with the state just by it's name.

It also makes sense to come up with an eggplant or gutti vankaya biryani. Eggplant has an elevated status among the vegetables in Andhra cuisine and most of the locals love it. My husband too happens to be a fan and I had decided to recreate that biryani for him when I came back home. This marathon proved to be a perfect opportunity to try it. Honestly speaking I was not well versed with pulao - biryani preparations before this marathon. I have cooked around 20 dishes in the past two months to the point of vexation and in turn kinda gained expertise now in the preparation. This was one of the dishes that I cooked early on and so opted for a simple pressure cooker preparation like a pulao. If it had been now, I would have prepared in an authentic biryani style by preparing a marinated base and cooking in a dum style. That is for another time, I guess.

The word 'Gutti' literally means a bouquet or a bunch in Telugu, the language spoken in Andhra and Telangana states. 'Gu' here is not pronounced as in the word 'gut' but as in 'guru'. And 'tti' as the 'th' sound in the word 'thin'.  Eggplant / brinjal is called vankaaya. The 'vanka' in the word 'vankaaya' is pronounced as 'lanka' as in Srilanka. The eggplants are stuffed with a spice - legume mixture here instead of being chopped and sauteed, which is a common feature in vegetable biryani preparation. I added the spice mixture in the gravy as well along with biryani masala to bring out the flavor more. Don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. Most of them go into tempering. The final feedback I got from my husband was good. If one is an eggplant lover and looking for a quick and easy biryani version to prepare, give it a try. The dish is spicy enough that it can be served with plain yogurt / a simple raita.

1 cup Basmati rice
1 - 2 tbsp. ghee and/or oil
1 tsp. shahjeera / jeera (caraway / cumin seeds)
3 cardamom pods
3 cloves
2 small bay leaves
2 star anise
2 one inch pieces of cinnamon / casia
1 or 2 green chilies, finely chopped (depending upon the spiciness)
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 inch piece of finely chopped ginger
1 tsp. garlic paste (I didn't use any.)
A handful of cilantro leaves
Roughly a handful of mint leaves
1 big tomato, finely chopped
1 tsp. biryani masala / garam masala
1/4 cup yogurt
1 and 1/4 tsp. salt or as needed
A little more than 1 and 1/2 cups water

Stuffing ingredients for 6 eggplants:
6 small eggplants
2 tbsp. peanuts
2 tbsp. chana dal / roasted, split chickpeas
1 tbsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. sesame seeds
4 cloves
4 one inch pieces of cinnamon
4 - 6 red chillies depending upon their spiciness
Salt to taste
(The stuffing is for six eggplants. I had used the stuffing for 4 eggplants and used the rest in the onion and tomato gravy.  In case, if six eggplants are used and need more to use in the gravy, prepare more stuffing powder.)

Directions for the spice powder preparation and stuffing:
* Toast chana dal in a small skillet or wok on medium flame until it starts to lightly brown. Add coriander seeds, sesame seeds, cloves, cinnamon and red chillies and saute for a minute or two on low flame until everything is toasted. Take care not to burn them. Transfer the toasted contents to a plate and let them cool.
* Peanuts take longer to toast than the above ingredients and so toast them individually. Toast on low flame until black spots start to appear on the peanut skins and they don't appear raw when tasted. Cool and skin the peanuts by rubbing them between your palms. Let them cool. (Ready made toasted and skinned peanuts can be used instead.) 
* Add all the toasted ingredients and salt to a mixer / spice grinder and grind them fine. Add a tbsp. or two of water to the powder, make a thick paste and keep it aside.
* Wash and wipe the eggplants dry. Make crosswise slit on the eggplants, to the opposite side of the stem. (Make a plus mark cut, taking care not to quarter the eggplants.)
* Stuff the eggplants with the above spice mixture uniformly. If there is any leftover spice powder, use it in the gravy prepared.

Directions for biryani preparation:
1. Heat ghee in a small pressure cooker / pan and add carom or cumin seeds. When they start to brown, add cardamom, clove, cinnamon, bay leaf and star anise. Saute for few seconds, until the aroma of spices is noted. 
2. Add green chillies and onions and saute until golden brown. Next add ginger - garlic paste and saute until the raw smell leaves. Next add mint and cilantro and saute for a couple of minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until mush.

3. Add biryani masala, salt, any left over spice mixture from the above stuffing step, and yogurt and cook until almost the yogurt evaporates.
4. Wash the rice in two changes of water and drain. Add the drained rice and water. Mix gently to combine. Arrange the eggplants over the top, close the lid and pressure cook for three whistles. Let the valve pressure release on it's own. Wait for few minutes and then open the lid. Gently fluff and serve with yogurt.

1. If the rice was soaked for about 20 - 30 minutes prior to cooking, pressure cook for two whistles.
2. If cooking in a pan, don't add the stuffed eggplants and cook until the rice is half cooked. Then add the eggplants, cover the pan tightly and continue to cook on low flame until rice is completely cooked. (It may take about 20 minutes to cook this way.)

So far in my Biryani / Pulao / Khichdi series,
A for Ambur Biryani
B for Basanti Pulao / Misthi Pulao
C for Corn - Fenugreek Greens Pulao
D for Donne Biryani
E for Ek Toap na Dal Bhaat
F for Fada ni Khichdi

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#99.


sushma said...

Gutti Vankaya biryani looks soo good, Love the stuffing. I have posted gutti vankaya biryani too last week.

Sharmila Kingsly said...

Love stuffed brinjal and a rice with that sounds so yummy!!

Harini R said...

Wow! What a flavorful dish it must be. I am sure vankaya lovers will go gaga over it. Shall pass it on to my friends.

Gayathri Kumar said...

I love eggplant in all avatars and this one is so tempting. The stuffing sounds so flavourful and I am sure that it adds an amazing dimension to the biryani.

Srividhya said...

I didn't know the meaning for gutti. Thanks for the beautiful explanation. I wrote this down on my list, but ended making simple eggplant biryani without any stuffing. Lovely share.

vaishali sabnani said...

I love the way you jay explained the details of this Biryani , and Suma I will for sure wait for the layered version :))
Since I am allergic to brinjals , I will substitute them with potatoes , I am drooling over this biryani and will definitely be trying !

Kalyani said...

I had this on my shortlist, then the eggplants went kaput to make vangibhath :-) I have ur recipe now, and will make this very soon (and thank u for correcting the "tt" sound in gutti! I thought it was called with the T in tongue sound...)

Srivalli said...

Suma, this adaptation sounds out of the world! We are a fan of this vegetable and so obviously I will have to try. I haven't heard of this biryani until recently and I felt I was in a cave! Naturally, somebody must have tried to recreate a vegetarian version right. Will surely make it sometime.

Sowmya :) said...

The stuffed brinjal looks so delectable. Love this flavorful biryani...absolutely yumm!

Pavani said...

I love the stuffed brinjal with the rice! It sounds delicious and looks beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

cookwithrenu said...

As a kid I never liked eggplants, but off late I just love it and in search of new recipes. This stuffed eggplant biryani looks yum and delicious. Bookmarked

Swati said...

I love brinjal dishes but never used in biryanis or pulaos though I have the subzi with dal chawal.. This looks so inviting , I think I can give it a try