Kuah kacang

Coming from someone who hardly eats or even likes kuah kacang much, the assignment to make kuah kacang for a Raya gathering can be described as a bit of a gamble.

Kuah kacang is not something that I find to be particularly notable. I don’t gravitate towards it on buffet tables. I find it too sweet and sickly, and sticky, and oily. I don’t generally dip my satay in it. I am even less keen on the Indonesian version than the Malaysian version, which is even sweeter.

I’m not selling this very well, am I?

Kacang

Perhaps I have just never had a nice homemade kuah kacang. Actually, that’s not true – I have had Bigfoot’s mother’s kuah kacang, and wasn’t hugely keen on that either, a view which flies in the face of common opinion. Please don’t tell her. I think kuah kacang just doesn’t push my buttons.

But. BUT. I did quite like this. Maybe I adulterated it beyond recognition. Maybe it is not sweet enough to be proper kuah kacang. Or perhaps too spicy, or salty. Obviously, I  don’t think so.  It could be one of those strange things where once you have put effort into it, you trick yourself into liking what you have made. But hey, my peanut sauce, my rules / choice of seasoning.

 It also went down pretty well with the rest of the deprived-of-Malaysian-food-crowd. Yay me! 

Kuah Kacang / Malaysian Peanut Sauce (Satay Sauce)

Based on Anna Qawina’s recipe, tweaked and seasoned differently

5-8 cloves garlic
1 large purple onion, or 2 smaller ones
2 stalks of lemongrass
10-20 dried chillies, washed – adjust depending on how hot you want it
A thumb’s length of ginger
A slice of toasted belacan, around 1/2 cm thick and the length of your thumb – note that I have female-length thumbs, so don’t go too crazy. Toast it gently over a flame or in a toaster oven / dry fry in a pan until the colour changes a little.

1/2 cup water
500-800g blanched peanuts, toasted or fried
1 piece of gula melaka – this is the approximate equivalent of 1/4 cup of packed brown sugar, but start low and work upwards to taste.
1 tablesp asam jawa / tamarind paste in hot water, mushed until the water turns brown
Sugar and salt, to taste

  1. Grind the garlic, onion, lemongrass, chilli, ginger, and belacan in a blender or chopper until you get a paste. Fry this over medium heat until fragrant.
  2. Chop the peanuts roughly in a chopper or blender, then add them to the pan. Add the water so the texture is closer to a sauce.  Add extra water if needed. Lower the heat slightly, and stir so that the peanuts don’t burn.
  3. Add the gula melaka/ brown sugar, and stir until it is all combined.
  4. Season with the sugar, salt, and asam jawa. I obviously added no sugar, some salt, and almost all the asam jawa.

Enjoy with some other raya food. Savour it thoroughly, because I’m only making this once a year! 🙂

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Attempting to copy Mrs. Yeti’s Kichidi

I first learnt of kichidi while eating at Mrs Y.’s table. I can’t believe I never knew of this before!

Funny isn’t it, comfort food takes similar forms and evokes similar feelings despite which cuisine it originates from. I think an ill version of me would be just as happy eating kichidi as Chinese porridge. Well maybe say, 80% as happy. That’s still pretty close. A healthy me would also be happy because both taste pretty good. I happily ate mine with accompanying dishes while at Mrs Y’s, when I recreated this at home I was too hungry and ate it straight from the pot. Shh.

As much as I’d like to say this is Mrs Y’s original recipe, it isn’t. This is because she appears to make it very fast and when I tried to watch her one time I lost track.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Kichidi

Adapted from Padhu’s Kitchen, changing a few ingredients and the rice:dhal ratio. 

I’ve also made this recipe with loads of ingredients missing and it still tasted pretty nice – I’ve marked those that I’ve tried it without. I’d suggest you don’t try making it so bare bones that all of the stuff is left out at the same time though

1/2 cup rice
1/2 cup dhal – I used the orange dhal
2 cups water – I used 1:2 for each of the rice and dhal so check what your rice and dhal packet says 

1 teasp mustard seeds – without is okay
1 teasp cumin seeds
1/4 teasp whole black pepper (or just black pepper if you don’t have it whole)
A few curry leaves – without is okay
A pinch of hing (asafoetida) – without is okay

1 onion, chopped
2 dried chillies – technically you should use one green chilli, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 a thumb of ginger, chopped
1 tomato, chopped – original recipe doesn’t have this, but it is a nice option if you want it

1/4 teasp turmeric powder – without is okay
1 teasp chilli powder
1/2 teasp coriander powder – without is okay
1/4 teasp garam masala

Other utensils: pressure cooker or a lot of patience.

  1. Fry the mustard seeds and cumin seeds in a little oil over medium heat, until they start to dance. Then, add in the black pepper, curry leaves, and hing (if using). Give it a bit of a stir until it smells nice.
  2. Add the onion, cook until it goes a bit transparant and soft.
  3. Add the ginger, garlic, and dry/fresh chilli. Fry until fragrant. Add tomato and cook until soft if using.
  4. Add all the powders, give it a quick stir for a couple of seconds.
  5. Add the rice and dhal, and fry it until coated with oil. Add some salt to taste.
  6. Add the water, and close the lid on the pressure cooker. Cook on high for 9 minutes.  If you don’t a pressure cooker, close the lid on your pot and be prepared to wait around 20 minutes. Taste and salt as needed.

After that you can garnish with fried onions, or coriander, or a top-up garnish (see the original author’s link). I didn’t do any of these because I was already happy with the taste 🙂

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.

The Humble Tomato

I didn’t really want to write about tomato sauce, I want to write about eggplant lasagne. Which is more awesome than I imagined, and I have snacked on it three times between lunch and dinner. It tastes good cold. My next post will be about eggplant lasagne.

I am writing about tomato sauce because Bigfoot pestered me into writing about it.

I figure: tomato sauce, who wants to read about tomato sauce. If you’re interested in tomato sauce, you probably already know how to make it and don’t need to hear my ramblings. Especially since I don’t have a proper recipe for you. If you aren’t interested in tomato sauce, you probably bought it from the supermarket last time you wanted it. In the form of tomato paste, or possibly Prego. No shaming here – in my memory Prego tastes pretty decent.

My point being, if you don’t feel like it’s worth the hassle, then to you it probably isn’t.

Why do I make my own tomato sauce then? And why always with fresh tomatoes?

These are the discount-almost-off type of tomatoes

Err. Sentimental reasons. Sort of. Also, I like the taste.

When I was in university, the dining hall food was awful. And by awful I mean really quite bad. Except for certain days, like spaghetti day.

If, because you were ill / not hungry / overly fussy *embarrassed face*, you didn’t want to eat the dining hall food, then you were allowed to exchange your meal allocation for 4 fruits. For some reason, in this university, tomatoes were classified as a fruit along with bananas and apples. To give them credit, I did see people chomp into whole tomatoes after meals so perhaps it was a cultural thing.

4 tomatoes + garlic + pasta made for a much better dinner than what I used to find in the dining hall.

I didn’t have a pot of my own back then, and the one I did borrow was lidless. And for some reason I thought that tomato sauce needed to be stirred constantly to prevent it from burning. Probably an indication that I had the heat too high, but it was therapeutic none the less.

Since then, I’ve figured this cooking business out a little bit better. But for me, on a cold evening, comfort food (with minimal effort) doesn’t get much better than a simmering pot of fresh tomato sauce.

It's so hard to make tomato sauce look attractive

Note: I used loads of tomatoes because of $1 (for a big bag of) tomatoes. Yay tomatoes!

Basic Tomato Sauce

I use variations of this in most recipes requiring some sort of tomato base, unless it’s tomato paste to be mixed into a sauce or something. Then I’d probably just buy tomato paste. 

Basic:
4 medium sized tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic

Balsamic vinegar – for balancing. I’ve done this with white vinegar too, but be careful and use only a tiny bit as it tastes harsh.
Sugar – again, for balancing.
Olive oil

Optional: onion (up to 1/2 a small one), chilli (fresh or flakes), anchovies, various herbs, various other vegetables to flavour the sauce.

This looks long but it is really just a few steps: add garlic, add tomato, simmer, season, simmer. The rest is descriptive.

  1. Prep:
    Grab a pot with a lid, and put in a little olive oil. I use about a teaspoon. Leave the lid off, and let the oil heat over a medium-low flame. 
  2. Garlic:
    Crush your garlic and roughly chop it. As you finish chopping, add it to the pot. Stir a little and make sure it doesn’t burn.

    • At this point you can add your extras:
      • I almost always add 1/4 to 1/2 a sliced onion, depending on the size of the onion. I also usually add a sprinkle of chilli flakes.
      • I recently discovered anchovies, and sometimes add one or two small ones.
  3. Tomato:
    While the garlic + extras are cooking, chop your tomatoes. Roughly chopped is fine, they don’t need to be too small. I don’t bother blanching off the skins, as I like my sauce chunky anyway.
  4. Tomato:
    As the garlic turns golden and onions (if using) turn translucent, drop in the tomatoes. Note that garlic can burn quite quickly, but as long as you put in a couple of tomatoes before the garlic burns it’ll be fine. Apparently this has something to do with the liquid coming out of the tomato, and is called deglazing. Once all your tomatoes are in, cover the pot and crank up the heat to med-high. Make sure your lid fits well, if not you may need to add water later. If you want you can add other random vege to flavour the sauce here too – a grilled (charred) capsicum is nice, chopped roughly.
  5. Simmer:
    That’s it! Now leave it alone for 15 minutes. You don’t even have to stir, just make sure it doesn’t dry out – if so, turn down the heat a bit and add a little water.
  6. Season:
    By now your tomatoes are mushy and the beginnings of awesomeness are blossoming. Time to balance the flavour.

    • When I lived in UK / NL /and now Australia, I generally use/d very little seasoning – half a teaspoon of balsamic, perhaps a quarter of a teaspoon of sugar or less. You can also add herbs, if you feel like it. Taste and adjust until it is to your liking. Also, a little salt helps if you like that (I usually don’t salt it much).
    • Sorry Malaysia and Singapore, I love your food but your tomatoes are sour. I couldn’t figure out what was going wrong at the beginning. I generally use half to one teaspoon of balsamic, and up to a teaspoon of sugar, but don’t add it all at once, taste and adjust slowly.
  7. Simmer:
    Close the lid of the pot and keep cooking on medium for as long as you want. The longer you cook it for, the longer the humble tomato has to turn into the soothing balm that is good tomato sauce. Keep an eye on it in case it gets dry.
    If you turn the heat down to low, you can pretty much leave it alone while you figure out the rest of your food-related tasks. If it gets dry, add a little water. If you need it thicker, leave the lid off (e.g., if you use it for pizza sauce).

Baked Real Whole Fish

Oh woe is me, for the want of barbecued fish but lack of a barbecue.

Photo 25-02-2013 18 47 45 Photo 25-02-2013 18 57 26

Sympathy not forthcoming, I resolved to remedy this disaster.

I ended up making baked fish with a Thai inspired sauce (what is it with me and Asian adaptations at the moment?? Note to self, please don’t let your angmoh side start getting in control of things here. If you start adapting classics like claypot chicken rice, part of you will die inside.)

Photo 25-02-2013 19 23 54

Anyway, not that it makes any of this it more acceptable, but I did note that this style of cooking = moist soft fish while retaining a nice slight char on the sauce flavours at the end.

Photo 25-02-2013 19 56 30

Thai Style Baked Fish

Method from Thaifood.About.com, edited to suit the flavour I wanted. 

Medium red snapper

10 cloves garlic
2 sticks lemongrass – white part only
1 small red chilli
1 green chilli
4 tablesp soya sauce
1 tablesp oyster sauce
2 tablesp fish sauce
3 teasp brown sugar
Zest of 1/4 of a large lime
Juice of 1 a large lime
A large bunch of coriander

Tin foil
An oven-safe dish large enough to hold your fish – to prevent drips

  1. Clean and scale your fish, if this hasn’t already been done.
  2. In a good food processor, dump in all the sauce ingredients except for the lime juice and the coriander.
    1. Add 80% of the coriander, reserving the rest for garnish
    2. Add half the lime juice
  3. Blend everything. Taste, and adjust lime juice and sugar as necessary.
  4. When you’re happy, roll out enough tin foil to encase the fish and drop the fish in the middle of it. Pack a couple of tablespoons of paste into the fish cavity. Slash the sides of the fish vertically a couple of times, and pack some paste into there too. Make sure paste coats both sides of the entire fish. Reserve a couple of tablespoons of sauce / paste for later.
  5. Loosely wrap the fish in the tin foil, and place in the oven safe dish. This prevents drippage and makes your life easier later on.
  6. Bake at 190 degrees C for around 20 minutes, adjust if your fish is bigger. Mine was a medium sized fish.
  7. Check if the fish is done (i.e., flesh inside the cuts on the side of the body is no longer translucent). If so, open the top of the tinfoil, pour in the rest of the sauce. Turn the oven to max / grill setting, and grill the exposed fish for around 5 minutes, or until the top reaches your desired level of charred-ness.

On Asian Adaptations and Silken Tofu

I like silken tofu but I never know what to eat it with except soya sauce, spring onion + friends. Sometimes you need a little more kick than a peaceful meal of steamed silken tofu with soya sauce can provide.

Pre-sauce Post-sauce

Enter Szechuan inspired tofu.

Now, I hate Asian food adaptations as much as the next purist, especially because they are generally bland-ed down versions of the real stuff, but when you have just moved house and possess only half the necessary storecupboad staples, well, there isn’t really much else you can do.

Rest assured that at least this adaptation is far from bland.

A mess of peanuts

(Anyone else hate the words “silken tofu”?? Sounds so unappetising. I didn’t even know it was called that until a year or so ago).

Lunchtime!

Szechuan Inspired Tofu

No real source here – I checked out a couple of page for various other things then threw some stuff together. 

1 block silken tofu
1/4 cup peanuts, unsalted

4 garlic, peeled
1.5cm ginger, peeled
2 red chilli (or one large long red chilli)
1 tablesp kicap manis
3 tablesp light soya sauce
1 teasp white vinegar
1 teasp brown sugar
1/3 cup water
A pinch of flour – flour or cornflour are both okay

  1. Steam tofu!
  2. Meanwhile, put the garlic, ginger, and chilli in a chopper. Blend to a rough paste.
  3. Pour all the sauces into the garlic / ginger / chilli mixture, and let them all sit until the tofu is almost finished cooking.
  4. Toast the peanuts… for no more than 5 minutes! I used a toaster oven and burnt mine.
  5. In a pot, fish out most of the garlic / ginger / chilli and fry in a little oil over medium heat.
  6. When the ginger and garlic turns a little golden and becomes fragrant, add the rest of the sauce and 1/3 cup of water.
  7. Set the heat to high. Let the mixture come to a boil and simmer down until the sauce is black and reduced a little. Then, add the pinch of flour and stir until the sauce thickens.
  8. Pour sauce and peanuts over steamed tofu and serve hot, with rice.

Yet Another Lazy Pasta

Lazy pasta needs no introduction, it’s the staple of quick weeknight meals. Using only one pot and requiring only one ingredient to be chopped. If you eat it out of the pan, you don’t even need to wash a plate (I definitely don’t eat out of the pan *cough*). What more can you ask for on a busy day?

Well, I’d also ask for a single serving sized tub of chocolate mousse. Oh but yes.

This pasta is like the comforting old house slippers of the pasta world – easy, quick, warm, and makes you feel happy. I don’t think I’d want stilettos for dinner every night, but that’s another story.

Not so appealing, but beautiful all the same.

No shoes were harmed in the making of this dish.

Spinach and Cheese Pasta

A riff on this pasta, but slightly less sophisticated and more spicy. And based on what I had in the cupboard/freezer. Takes all of about 15 minutes to come together.

5 cloves garlic
A generous handful of spinach, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup grated cheese – I used cheddar is fine, if you use something stronger you can use a less. It’s really up to you.
2 teasp chilli powder – I probably used more than this
1/2 teasp basil
A pinch of salt

Pasta for one – I used macaroni

  1. Cook the pasta, set aside. Drain but let the pasta stay a bit wet – this helps the sauce come together later.
  2. Chop the garlic, and cook over medium heat in a little oil with a pinch of salt. After the garlic starts to brown, add the chilli powder and basil, and stir.
  3. Dump in the spinach (mine was still frozen and it defrosted in the pan). Stir until it warms up and wilts.
  4. Pour in the pasta and the grated cheese, stir until the cheese is melted and everything is nicely mixed together.

Sambalicious Greens

Random thought: asparagus looks more like fingers than ladies fingers (bhindi), in my opinion. Stubby, weird fingers, but still.

Ladies fingers (bhindi) look like talons that come off some strange and massive creature from a long distant past.

A pile of green

Sambal asparagus (well, sambal-anything really) is one of my favourite vegetables to eat in restaurants, but not to eat at home. Why? It’s more hassle than the garlic-oyster-sauce variety. But well, the result is worth it. And if you make loads of sambal  and store it like Rasa Malaysia suggests, then I suppose a sambal-vegetable should be faster than any other sort.  I’m an inconsistent sambal-eater at home, so I didn’t bother making extra.

Sambal necessities

As you might have guessed by now, you can make sambal-anything and it will still taste good. Mostly green veg will work the best (I think), but it would be nice with eggplant too. Perhaps pumpkin? I’ll have to try that.

I could eat only sambal asparagus for meals on end

Sambal Asparagus

Adapted from Rasa Malaysia. I reduced the sambal amount because I only wanted enough for this dish, so the proportions are just slightly different.

5 dried chillies
2 fresh chillies
2 shallots
1 clove garlic
1 teasp belacan

200g asparagus – use young asparagus, or peel it! I forgot and served unpeeled large asparagus, fellow diners were not amused
A few prawns – with the shell removed is easier to eat
1/4 teasp sugar
1/4 teasp fish sauce

  1. Blend the chillies (dried and fresh), shallots, garlic, and belacan into a thick paste.
  2. Fry the sambal in a wok in a little oil, until you smell the belacan (believe me, you won’t miss it. Open your windows).
  3. Add the prawns and stir them in quickly, then dump in the asparagus.
  4. Add the fish sauce and sugar, and stir in. Taste, and adjust as needed. Keep cooking until the asparagus is done through.

 

Leeks and Bouncy Prawns

Sometimes you want real food, and sometimes you make pasta. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying pasta isn’t food. All I’m saying is that the times I make pasta don’t seem to be the times when I’m exceptionally excited / ambitious about cooking. Pasta fulfills a very important role as “standby food”.

I make pasta when:

  • I’m tired and I can’t be bothered to cook
  • There is nothing in the cupboard and I don’t feel like shopping
  • I’m being cheap because I just bought something fancy and used up the rest of my food budget for the month
  • I want to do as little washing up as possible because it’s cold outside and I’m cold and washing up makes me cold (yes, I hate the cold)
  • I’m not really hungry but it’s dinnertime and the auntie who lives in my brain is forcing me to have a so-called square meal

Some like it hot Leeks are quite pretty somehow Bathing in icy water Yes chilli please And next the leek And the lightly cooked bouncy prawns Also tastes good cold, and for lunch tomorrow

I’m totally misjudging pasta here because it’s really quite satisfying. Especially when it has bouncy bouncy prawns in it.

boing boing boing

Chilli, Leek, and Prawn Pasta

Inspired by a combination of Taste.com.au, and The Age. Neither of them did exactly what I wanted though, much editing ensued.

3-4 servings of pasta – spaghetti or similar is better
2 leeks
5 cloves garlic
2 chillies
200g prawns – shelled
1.5 tablesp lemon juice, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan to sprinkle, I like lots

  1. Peel the prawns and let them sit in a bowl of icy cold water to ensure optimum bounciness while maintaining laziness. For a true bouncy prawn you apparently need to marinade at pH9.
  2. Cook the pasta. Drain and set aside. Keep a little cup of the pasta water.
  3. Dump the peeled garlic and chilli (with the stem and end cut off) into the chopper for a quick whiz. Start frying in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add a pinch of salt too.
  4. Slice the leek into rounds. Throw away the super hard green part. When the garlic goes golden, throw the leeks into the pan.
  5. Once the leeks soften, add the prawns. Keep going until they’re just cooked.
  6. Put the pasta into the pan and mix it all up. Add a little pasta water to get the sauce moving.
  7. Season with lemon, salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Remove from heat and sprinkle with parmesan. Toss and enjoy for dinner, and tomorrow’s lunch.

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.