Thursday, 29 May 2014

Braised Aubergine with Homemade Garlic Chilli Sauce

Singaporean Stir Fried Eggplant, Kale Mallum , Brown Rice
Braised Chilli Aubergine with Kale Mallum and Brown Rice

 I've made a lot of stir-fries and stew-type-things which were perfectly good, but didn't quite take me on a journey, and my culinary map was left wavering neither here nor there. Go by faith when I tell you this is one of those few dishes that actually tastes like the real McCoy.

What really excites me about food is a mash-up. This recipe is a mix of Australian, Cantonese and Indonesian influences, aka Fusion Food. Fusion cuisine combines regional flavours that should clash but don't. This culinary trend is so modern I could even throw in superfluous phrases like 'post-structuralism' to talk about fusion food, as it defies the restrictive terms of national cuisine and produce, redefining the limits of what is acceptable to our naturalised palates. Although fusion cuisine has only recently taken the world of fine dining by storm, it is by no means a new phenomenon. Kedgeree, Tikka Masala and Onion Bhaji and Battenberg Cake are some of the earliest examples of popular British inventions which haven't escaped international influence in one way or another. Of more recent inventions, a particular Thai Green Curry Macaron recipe from Jill Colonna's Mad About Macarons comes to mind.

Salting Aubergines
Salting the aubergines

Fusion food, when it works, takes you not only on a journey, but a multi-stop trip. As food writer Ching-He Huang puts it, fusion food is also the "fine art of mixing it". No one region dominates and no region merges to the point of obscurity. So, as with any good plate of food, the beauty of this very simple stir-fry recipe is in the right balance of garlic, soy, chilli, vinegar and coriander. It's a slight adaptation of Kylie Kwong's version which she showcased on Masterchef Australia, I believe this is supposed to be a Cantonese-style recipe. It's not fusion food, so although you might not find yourself one moment sauntering through the lavender-scented fields of Provence, and the next in the misty crowds of a Chinese metropolis, it will hit that umami spot on your tongue, head on.

Blending Garlic-Chilli Sauce
Hand-blending the chilli sauce. I know what you're thinking, and your comments are uncalled for and unnecessary!
Now, I rarely steal a recipe to put on this site, unless it is worth sharing, and any major changes would make it worse. But Kylie Kwong has nailed this on the head. A few of my own adjustments mean that those with a 1% chilli tolerance can also enjoy the salty, mildly sweet and sour meatiness of this vegetarian/vegan stir-fry recipe. Meat-lovers will be satisfied, too. I could eat bowls of this spicy aubergine/eggplant stir-fry, but to avoid an obesity epidemic you'd be better advised to serve with rice this as a main for two people, or one of a few dishes. Here, I served it with brown rice and some Indonesian kale mallum - for that, you can find the recipe here.

Singaporean Stir Fried Aubergine
In the mood for more Asian food but can't take the heat? This tofu pad-thai is a personal favourite - mild on the Scoville scale but packed full of flavour. Another great choice of vegetarian mains that everyone will love is Spanakopita.

Braised Aubergine with Homemade Garlic-Chilli Sauce

Adapted from Kylie Kwong's Masterchef version
Serves 2-3 (62p - 87p per serving with brown rice)

1 large aubergine/ eggplant - 60p
4 tbsp (60ml) oil - peanut, vegetable or sunflower - 6p
3 tbsp Soy sauce -13p
1 tbsp white vinegar - 4p


1 large tomato - 23p
1/2 onion - 4p
3 garlic cloves - 4p
Handful of coriander leaves - 15p
Chilli - Either 1 red and 1 green chilli (mild) or 2-3 red chillis (medium-hot) - 30p

1. Blend all the sauce ingredients using hand-held blending stick or food processor.

2. Cut the aubergine into thick strips, then into long, rectangular pieces. Put them in a colander, toss with plenty of salt and set aside for 30 minutes.

3. Wash aubergine pieces and pat them dry with kitchen towel.

4. Heat 2 tbsp (30ml) of the oil in a large non-stick pan and once it hits smoking point, add aubergine pieces and fry until they are golden brown. Remove from the oil and set them aside to dry on paper towel.

5. Heat remaining oil and fry blended raw ingredients till you get the aroma, and raw smell evaporates. Add soy sauce and vinegar, mix well.

6. Turn off the heat, add fried eggplant to this sauce and mix well.

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