Imam Bayıldı

TURKEY

To say this dish is a showstopper is the understatement of the century

SUBMITTED BY

Ece

Careful: This eggplant dish might cause fainting. Well, at least that’s what the name implies. Get ready to be wowed by Imam Bayilidi aka “The Imam Fainted.” This dish is a Turkish delicacy and the grand finale of my recent series on how the world eats eggplant. And trust me, this is definitely a show-stopping, finale kind of dish.

Imam Bayilidi is also referred to as Turkish Stuffed Eggplants. So, how did a dish about eggplants get such a name? The answer depends on who you ask. One version of the story states the the imam fainted due to the hefty amount of onions and garlic used in the dish. Another claims that the fainting happened after the imam learned the price of the dish, thanks to all of the expensive olive oil that was used. The third version says the imam fainted because the dish was just too delicious. Now that story, I could absolutely believe.

These stories and the recipe were shared with me by Ece. She grew up enjoying her aunt’s version of Imam Bayilidi and, even though her aunt has since passed, this eggplant dish still holds a special place in her heart. It turns out that Imam Bayilidi is a special dish for many Turks, as it was featured in the first Turkish cookbook ever to be printed back in 1844. Just one bite into Imam Bayilidi and it’s easy to see why the Turks cherish this dish.

Imam Bayilidi begins by lightly frying an eggplant in lots of olive oil. The fried eggplant boat is then filled with a generous combination of sauteed onions, garlic, spices, and tomatoes. The loaded eggplant is then left to braise for a full 45 minutes in a light tomato sauce and topped with fresh parsley. The result is a tender eggplant that’s brimming with delicate spices and tomato flavor. Imam Bayilidi is usually served as a side dish or as a nice dish after the main course. Ece even says that the dish can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature.

Imam Bayilidi is an eggplant dish that has simple flavors, but delivers so much. You certainly shouldn’t wait to try this dish, but remember to eat it sitting down – just in case of fainting.

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Imam Bayıldı

Ingredients
  

  • 2 aubergines (eggplants)
  • olive oil
  • 1 heaped tsp tomato paste
  • 300 ml boiling water
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 2 medium onions cut into half-moons
  • 4 cloves garlic finely sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes peeled and cut into wedges
  • fresh flat-leaf parsley chopped
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper or pinch regular chili flakes

Instructions
 

  • Peel half the skin off the aubergines, so they resemble a zebra pattern. Salt generously and set aside for half an hour.
  • Meanwhile, make the stuffing. Heat a thick bottomed frying pan over medium heat. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil and fry the onion until softened, but not browned, 8-10 minutes. Stir regularly. Add the garlic and fry for another minute, stirring constantly, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes and Aleppo pepper (if using). Keep frying until the tomatoes collapse and the liquid starts to thicken, 5-6 minutes. Stir every once in a while to ensure nothing catches at the bottom. Add the flat-leaf parsley and some salt and pepper. Take off the heat.
  • Brush the salt off the aubergines. Heat a thick bottomed frying pan over medium heat. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil and fry the aubergines until they start to soften, turning regularly. Alternatively, roast in a preheated oven at 200℃ (400℉) until starting to soften, around 20 minutes.
  • Make a lengthwise incision in the aubergines, as if opening a baguette, leaving 2 cm at either end. The incision should not pierce through the bottom of the aubergines.
  • Add the stuffing into the aubergines and place them, stuffed side up, in a pan for which you have a lid. Add 5 Tbsp olive oil to the pan. Mix the tomato paste, sugar and boiling water with a little salt and pepper. Add enough of the liquid to the pan to go about halfway up the side of the aubergines.
  • Bring to a boil, put on a lid and turn the heat down to low. Leave to simmer until the aubergines are completely soft, around 45 minutes. Add extra liquid if it's starting to look a little dry. Set aside to cool completely. Scatter a little flat-leaf parsley over before serving.

Notes

Recipe inspired by Vidar Bergum
Course: Dinner
Region: Asia
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword: Crowd-pleaser

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