İmam bayıldı, or “the imam passed out”: a recipe and a saying
Not just kebap! Contrary to popular belief, Turkish cuisine is the expression of a very varied set of different regions, cultures and traditions.
Among the many dishes present, those based on aubergines occupy a very important place. This versatile vegetable, in fact, is the protagonist of many preparations, from tasty meze or appetizers to real main courses, up to desserts!
İmam bayıldı, literally “the imam passed out” is one of the most popular recipes in Turkish cuisine.
Basically it is whole aubergines braised and stuffed with garlic, onion and tomato. According to Turkish gastronomic culture, they are to be considered zeytinyağlı (literally “with olive oil”), which is a category of side dishes for which the use of olive oil is foreseen and which are usually served just warm or cold.
The history of İmam bayıldı
Before providing you with the recipe for İmam bayıldı, we want to focus on the origin of the name. There are various legends and versions about it. The most widespread narrates that one day the wife of an imam, wanting to surprise her husband with a delicious dish, invented this delicacy. The imam liked the dish so much that he literally fainted from the goodness! Another, more suggestive version, instead, tells the story of an imam who married the daughter of a wealthy olive oil trader. It seems that the bride’s dowry consisted of twelve jars of oil, with which she cooked an eggplant every evening, enriched with tomatoes and onions. When on the thirteenth day of the wedding the imam, perplexed, did not see the usual plate of aubergines arrive at the table and discovered that his wife’s precious dowry was already over, he fainted with sorrow!
Whatever the truth, one thing is certain: this dish is so popular that it was able to contaminate even the tongue! In fact, the verb bayılmak, in addition to meaning “to faint”, is nowadays used in a metaphorical sense to say that one is crazy about something. Sana bayıIıyorum, I’m crazy about you! In short, a recipe to try and a romantic phrase to add to our vocabulary. And to think that it all started with an eggplant!
İmam bayıldı recipe
Ingredients for 4 people:
– 5 medium-sized eggplants
– 3 medium onions
– 8 cloves of garlic
– 4 medium tomatoes
– 4 green chillies like friarelli
– 85 ml of olive oil
– 2 low teaspoons of sugar
– 2 glasses of boiling water
– 1 level teaspoon of salt
– 1 level teaspoon of black pepper
To fry the eggplant:
– 2 glasses of seed oil
For the sauce:
– 1 tomato
– 1 heaped teaspoon of tomato paste
– 3 tablespoons of olive oil
Wash the aubergines and leave the stalk in the meantime. With the help of a potato peeler remove the “striped” peel. This way of peeling vegetables in Turkish is called “alacalı” (harlequin) and the result must be “striped” aubergines, that is with vertical strips of untouched peel, alternating with peeled lines. Let the peeled aubergines rest for at least 10 minutes in a bowl full of salted water. Meanwhile, cut the onion and garlic into thin slices. Also cut the tomatoes and chillies into cubes. At this point, put the olive oil in a pan and start frying the onions and garlic, then adding the salt. When the onions are well browned, add the tomatoes and chillies and continue to stir-fry them for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, drain and dry the aubergines. In a separate pan, heat the seed oil for frying. Fry the eggplant evenly on all sides until softened. Once dried from the excess oil, transfer the aubergines to a pan large enough to be placed next to each other. At this point, with the help of a knife and fingers, open a “pocket” in the center of each eggplant. Generously stuff the aubergines with the sautéed onions, garlic, tomatoes and chillies. Add two glasses of hot water, cover with a lid and cook over low heat for about twenty minutes. In a separate pan, prepare the sauce: mix 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the tomato paste and add a grated tomato and sauté for a few minutes. Pour the sauce over the now warm aubergines and serve.