Gastrogeek, a fellow food blogger, published a recipe of Bengali Moussaka. A small discussion followed her post confirmed a long standing theory I have that people outside Damascus, Arabs and Westerners alike, don't know the difference between Mutabal and Baba Ghanoush. Even Wikipedia puts them under one title.
Being a man of science I decided not to accept anecdotal evidence from my discussion and put my theory to scientific scrutiny (If I was going to accept anecdotal evidence I would be selling herbs, Riekei, homeopathy, reflexology or some other kind of nothing-to-do-with-science-or-even-therapy-hocous-pocus-kind-of-rubbish).
So, I took a random sample of two groups of restaurants through a google search:
1. Restaurant in Syria or Syrian restaurants overseas (n=14).
2. Other Levantine restaurants outside Syria (n=13).
Since both dishes are Syrian, I set my study criteria that correct Syrian terminology should be used.
I checked the menu in each of these restaurants and recorded if they got their Mutabal/Baba Ghanoush right or wrong.
The results came back as group one got it right in 92% of the cases while group two in only 46%.
But is it a coincidence or do I have true results? I applied t-Test to my results and the two group showed a significant statistical difference with a P value=0.0085.
Hoorah!! My theory is proven (and my very boring on-call shift is about to finish). In case you are wondering what the hell was that last paragraph about, this is the kind of stuff I have to read on daily basis. I thought I will share the joy.
So after all of this what is the difference between the two? Both these dishes have the same main ingredient, smoky baked aubergine, but that where similarities end. Mutabal is the one with yogurt, Tahini and Garlic. Baba Ghanoush is the one with pomegranate molasses, tomatoes, parsley and walnuts.
Aubergine for both dishes is traditionally cooked in an unorthodox way. You put the aubergine whole directly on open flame and you cook it till it is charred on the outside and soft on the inside. This gives the dish its characteristic smokiness. No other method of cooking can give you that exact flavour. I tested my friend method and cooked my aubergine on the halogen hub. It actually works. Not as smoky but very close.
After you cook the aubergine, cover with cling film for 20-30 minutes. Remove the charred skin, it should come off easily, then mash the aubergine with a fork.
Add the rest of your ingredients and season to taste. There is no exact amount to the rest of the ingredients. Add more or less to get a taste you like. Spread on a plate and drizzle with olive oil.
I hope I answered the question once and for all.