On the Clash of Cuisines

Bigfoot and I have this problem, in that he says all Chinese food is bland and I strongly, vehemently, and occasionally violently disagree with him. And I continue to politely suggest that his taste buds have been corrupted by a lifetime of curry powder and exposure to poor quality pork-free cantonese  food.

There is a whole world (of Chinese food) out there. And I will win this personal crusade. Bit by bit, fighting tooth and nail each step of the way.

After this meal, the score stood at 5,001:0 (me being the victor. Of course, I’m also the only one keeping score, but whatever).

Preconceptions vanquished

Szechuan Eggplant with Spicy Tauchu 

Adapted from Smokywok.

2 medium sized eggplants – cut into sticks
1 cm knob salted fish – chopped
5 (small) cloves garlic – chopped
Thumb sized knob of ginger – sliced
3 stalks spring onions – chopped into 1-2 inch lengths
2 red chilli – chopped
1 teasp szechuan peppers

2 tablesp spicy tauchu (bean paste)
2 tablesp soya sauce
1.5 tablesp sugar
2 tablesp chinese black vinegar
1/4 cup water

  1. Pre-cook the eggplant – either fry it for a couple of minutes in a wok, or toast it in the toaster oven for 5 minutes. I toasted mine.
  2. In a claypot (or a pot with a lid), fry with a little oil: salted fish, garlic, ginger, spring onions, chilli, and szechuan peppers.
  3. Throw in all the sauces and the pre-cooked eggplant. Stir it up and wait for the sauce to boil.
  4. Once the sauce boils, lower the heat to medium-low, and cover with a lid. Cook for 10 minutes or so, until the eggplant is cooked and the sauce is absorbed.

Eggplant-zilla

This is the weirdest looking, largest eggplant I’ve ever seen. I bought it for that reason alone.

The world trembles beneath her feet

Having bought it, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with so much eggplant. Initially I considered eggplant parmagiana, but the thought of breadcrumbing and frying the eggplant slices individually was a bit overwhelming.

So, lasagne it is. I didn’t manage to use all the eggplant in the end. It was too much, too much.

..Help?

Please excuse my bao-lo fa-ke sweaterDon't hog the parmesan topping, not sociable at all

Eggplant Lasagne

You can do this with pretty much any vegetable, I did one with pumpkin and baby spinach a few days later. Quick-cooking vegetables like spinach don’t need pre-grilling. 

1/2 a humongous eggplant, cut to 1cm thick slices – equivalent to 1-2 large eggplants
1.5 – 2 cups tomato sauce – I used this, but any tomato-pasta-sauce is fine.
Lasagne strips – amount depends how big your baking dish is, I used  6 strips.
Cheese strips / grated for layering – again, depends on the size of your dish and how much you liked cheese. I used about 150g of colby cheddar, cut into thin strips. Mozzarella would probably be nice.
1/4 cup (or less) Grated parmesan to top

  1. Slice and grill your eggplant. Easiest is to do this in an oven / toaster oven – I stuck mine on an oiled tray in the toaster oven for 20 minutes at 220 degrees C. 
  2. Time to start layering – get out your oven dish, and start by pouring in about 1/4 cup of tomato sauce. Spread it around well.
  3. Then add a layer of lasagne strips. Break them to get them to fit if you need to.
  4. Then, another layer of tomato sauce – spread it over the pasta until it is all covered thinly.
  5. Then, a layer of grilled eggplant. Distribute your eggplant so you have enough for at least 2-3 layers.
  6. Then, add a layer of cheese. I just sprinkled strips sparingly across my eggplant, but I don’t like loads of cheese inside mine. Use more if you do.
  7. Repeat steps 3-6.
  8. Now, if you have space in your dish height-wise, repeat steps 3-5 again. If not, then just layer up what you do have, and make sure you end with a layer of lasagne strips.
  9. Now, pour on what is left of your tomato sauce, and scatter the parmasan cheese on top.
  10. Look down the sides of your baking dish. Is there sauce everywhere, or does it look dry? If it is dry, gently pour a 1/4 cup of water down the side of the dish, without disturbing the lasagne structure. This is to help the lasagne noodles cook.
  11. Stick the whole thing back in the toaster oven / oven for 20-30 minutes on 220 degrees C. If it starts to burn, cover with foil.
  12. To test if it is cooked, try sticking a fork in it – if you feel no resistance from the pasta, it’s done!

Vegetable Tirade

I have a belief. I do believe that vegetables should be present at every meal. I believe this very strongly and may proceed to proselytise if provoked.

You can provoke me by trying to feed me a meal in which there are no vegetables. Repeatedly. If you don’t realise you’ve done this then you are probably a prime target.

Obligatory pre-cooking shot

Based on my recipe track record here (which is a pretty accurate indicator of what I eat), I’m clearly not one of those mega health freaks that thinks that you should drink wheatgrass smoothies every morning and go on raw vegetable purges and whatever. I completely admire their dedication, but, seriously, have you tried wheatgrass? It has “grass” in the name you know, for good reason. I don’t like the taste of grass (as I’ve mentioned before in reference to broccoli). Grass is for creatures that are 4-legged and go moo.

Also, I could never pretend to be that health conscious because I like to binge on sugary things. It would be too hypocritical of me. Blah blah, sugar loading, yes yes.

Do you see the old man onion face??!!

Well. I believe there should always be there because I like vegetables. I believe that a lot of people would feel loads better if they decided to eat one (just one!) portion of vegetables with their meals. That’s like, the size of your fist. Not much! Well, I don’t have a big fist. If you don’t eat any vegetables and you eat a portion the size of my fist, I’m sure that’d be good enough?

Also, don’t you feel a bit ill if you eat a meal with only meat and carbs? Like sleepy, and heavy, and a bit like this?

JABBAAAA

Okay you caught me, actually I just wanted to put a picture of Jabba the Hutt in a food related post. Wahahaha.

Not how it's done in Vietnam, I'm sureLook it's modern art!Not burnt not burnt not burnt

But, you know. Vegetables don’t have to party it up all the time. Sometimes they can be demure, supporting cast members to a more dramatic dish.

That’s what I thought this was going to be, up until I realised I was walking to the rice cooker to get extra rice so I could eat more eggplant and plain rice.

Sorry excuse for an attempt at plating

Anyway, I realise I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent here, but my point was that I made this dish in all of about 15 minutes because there was no vegetable dish when I sat down at the dinner table today (It wasn’t my turn to cook).  I thought it upstaged the chicken curry but perhaps I’m biased?

Note: it was curry from a packet. I don’t think anyone in my house knows how to make curry from scratch.

Jabba hungry

Grilled Eggplant with Vietnamese Dipping Sauce and Scallion / Cà tím nướng mỡ hành 

Adapted from Cooking Practice, I lazied it up and subbed for things I didn’t have (spring onions again).

2 long skinny eggplants
3 spring onions – I didn’t have this, so I subbed for half a small red onion. Spring onions would probably be better but onion was nice too.

1 tablesp fish sauce
1 tablesp water
2/3 tablesp sugar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped – I’ll probably increase this next time
A few drops of lemon juice – optional, or you could use white vinegar, or omit this altogether

  1. Chop the eggplants into sticks and soak in salty water for a bit. (This is the beginning of my cheating method, for the authentic Vietnamese method go back to Cooking Practice 🙂 )
  2. Prepare the sauce – chop up the garlic and chilli, and mix in the fish sauce, water, sugar, and lemon juice.  Taste it and keep adding to it until you like the taste. Leave it to sit.
  3. Oil up your eggplant sticks and toast them in the oven on the grill setting. This is cheating, you’re supposed to char them over a flame but I didn’t feel like working so hard. For the instructions relating to charring over an open flame, head back over to Cooking Practice. It took my eggplants between 5-10 minutes in the oven to cook.
  4. In the meantime, chop up your spring onions. By the time you’re done, the eggplant should be done.
  5. Heat some oil (about 2 tablesp) in a pan until it smokes. Drop in the spring onions and stir a couple of times, then dump everything on the eggplant sticks. Which you’ve now nicely arranged on a plate, right?
  6. You can either keep the sauce aside as dipping sauce, or pour it all over the eggplant. I did the pour-over because…I didn’t want to have to explain to my dinner companions that it was dipping sauce as they were only coming home at 9.30pm.

 

Rushed Jobs and Eggplants

When you have half an hour’s warning to make dinner, that’s most definitely when you should start getting creative and trying things you’ve never done before.  Not completely my fault, we didn’t have much in the fridge except for eggplant, garlic and onion. As well as the pre-requisite sauces you need for everything.

It’s alright. Happy surprises involving eggplants brighten up my day. It’s one of my favourite vegetables 🙂

Vietnamese Claypot Eggplant

Inspired by The Siracusas. I didn’t follow their recipe that well because I didn’t have most of the ingredients. Great blogger, well done Lea. So here’s a pretty heavily adapted version of their recipe.

2 skinny eggplants
2 tablesp soya sauce
2 teasp sugar
1 teasp paprika powder – I never ever have paprika powder, I guess I don’t really know what it’s for? It’s a bit mild and sweetish but not any defined flavour? Yes I’m a philistine. I used a little dark/caramel soya sauce
1/2 a small onion – I added this… (ok so this wasn’t my fault, the recipe calls for a couple of spring onions, chopped, and I didn’t have any so I subbed)
3 cloves garlic – and this… (this is totally new)
2 red chillies – and this. (this too….See a pattern here? Related to garlic and chilli?)
A few dashes of white pepper

  1. Chop the eggplants into sticks, and soak them in some salty water. Dry and drain.
  2. Cook the eggplants – you can deep fry them, I usually stick these things in the toaster oven for a bit, flipping after 5 minutes. Because I’m lazy and also scared of flying oil.
  3. To get rid of the oil, you can rinse the eggplants in hot water, or pat them with a paper towel.
  4. Break out the clay pot (or just a pot), and marinate the eggplants in there with all the other sauces, for at least 30 minutes. I hit about 15 minutes tops and it was enough.
  5. The recipe says you can cook it on medium heat with the top off for 5 minutes. I chose to dump it on the stove for 15 with the top on. Again, out of laziness. But I found that this made the eggplant get all nice and caramalised on the outside, so go for it 🙂