Eggplant Imam Bayildi

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Preparation info

  • Serves


    as an appetizer
    • Difficulty


Appears in

A Canon of Vegetables

A Canon of Vegetables

By Raymond Sokolov

Published 2007

  • About

This is the most famous of all eggplant dishes. It is also the only recipe of any kind whose name is a sentence. Imam bayildi means “The imam fainted.” The traditional explanation for it is that some imam fainted from pleasure when he tasted this oil-drenched eggplant concoction. To a turcophone reader, there is nothing odd about the verb bayildi, the third-person singular preterite of the verb “to faint”: bayilmak. But to non-Turks, especially those wanting to spell bayildi correctly (and wouldn’t it be embarrassing to quote something from Turkish without spelling it correctly?), the crucial point is that the letter that looks like an i is not an I but a dotless i, written i (in this font, it is identical with a small numeral one) and pronounced like the German ö or oe as in Föhn* or Goethe.


  • 2 medium eggplants
  • Oil (preferably olive oil)
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon currants, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 bay leaf


  1. Cut the stems off the eggplants but do not peel. Cut several lengthwise slits in the eggplants but do not slice through.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet and sauté the onion until it browns lightly. Then add the tomato, salt, pepper, allspice, and parsley. Cook over medium-low heat until the mixture breaks down almost into a puree.
  3. Drain the currants, add them to the tomato-onion mixture, and cook for 10 more minutes. Let cool.
  4. Stuff the cooked mixture in the slits in the eggplants with your fingers or a knife.
  5. Set the eggplants in a flameproof dish that will just hold them. Pour oil over the eggplants until the oil level is about halfway up them. Add the garlic and bay leaf to the oil.
  6. Cover the dish and cook over very low heat for an hour, or until the eggplants are very soft. Turn them every 15 minutes. When they are done, pour off the excess oil and strain and store it for reuse. Cool and refrigerate the eggplants overnight. Serve them cold in thin slices.

*The mountain wind that grows warmer as it descends the Alps, especially in southern Germany. This “Föhn effect” occurs elsewhere under many local names: Zonda in Argentina, as found in Aconcagua Provincial park; the Puelche, also in the Andes; the Halny Wiatr in Poland; the Koembang in Java; the Santa Ana in California; the Chinook in the Rocky Mountains; the Sirocco in North Africa, Greece, and Spain; the Harmattan in West Africa; the Bora in the former Yugoslavia; the Simoom in Arabia; the Kamsin in Syria; and the Samiel in Turkey.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), poet and polymath. His pan-European fame reached as far as Detroit, where the street named after him is pronounced Go-thee, as in theme.

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