How to make burani banjan

Zarghona Lafraie, from Afghanistan, shows how to make burani banjan (eggplant with tomato and yoghurt sauce).

Zarghona Lafraie, her husband Najib and their four children came to New Zealand as refugees in 2000. They were in Christchurch for two years before moving to Dunedin, where her husband now lectures at the University of Otago and she works as a nurse.

Afghanistan is hot and dry in summer and much colder than Dunedin in winter, with ice and snow.

People dry or pickle fruit and vegetables in summer to use through the harsh winters, she says.

Afghani food is not as hot and spicy as Indian or Pakistani food. They use a lot of onion, garlic, tomatoes, cumin and cloves and often eat hot chutneys, but the food itself is not hot, she says.


Burani banjan, eggplant with tomato and yoghurt sauce 


Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Photo by Gregor Richardson.

2 eggplants
oil for frying
1 400g can chopped tomatoes
½ tsp turmeric
½ cup water
1 large clove garlic
1 cup plain, unsweetened yoghurt
dried mint
fresh coriander leaves (optional)
fresh chillies (optional)



This is a traditional Afghani dish which Mrs Lafraie makes when she has guests.

Peel the eggplant and cut into slices either across or lengthwise, depending on the size and shape of your eggplants. Sprinkle them with a couple of teaspoons of salt and place them in a sieve or colander to drain for about half an hour.

Pour oil about 1 to 1cm deep in a frying pan and heat it over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the eggplant slices one by one until the pot is full and bubbling. You will need to do this in batches.

Cook about five minutes on each side until light brown.

Meanwhile, add turmeric to the can of tomatoes and spread about half of them over the bottom of a baking dish.

Lay the browned eggplant slices on top. When all the eggplant is in the dish, spread the rest of the tomato and turmeric on top. Add half a cup of water, cover the dish with tinfoil or a baking tray and put in an oven preheated to 200degC for about 20 minutes.

Prepare the topping by grating the raw garlic into the yoghurt and stir in with a pinch of salt.

Spread a little of the yoghurt sauce on a serving plate.

When the eggplant and tomato is sizzling, spoon it on to the serving plate and drizzle the rest of the yoghurt sauce over it. Sprinkle lightly with dried mint and decorate with fresh coriander leaves and fresh chillies.

Serve with hot naan or other flat bread. The Lafraies like to drink sweet green tea with this dish.



• In Afghanistan, eggplants are cheap, large and plentiful in summer and are dried for winter. Small ones are also grown for pickling.

• Salting eggplants and leaving them to drain allows some of the moisture to be extracted and prevents them taking up so much oil when they cook.

• Fresh tomatoes can be used instead of tinned when they are in season.

• The dish can be cooked in a pot on low heat on top of the stove instead of in the oven.

• Mrs Lafraie makes her own yoghurt but says Greek yoghurt is a good substitute.


- Thanks to Afife Harris and The Veggie Boys.



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