Udon Noodles with Bitter Thai Pea Eggplants & Sweet Peppers
If you are not already familiar with these little beauties, you may have trouble accepting the fact that they are indeed eggplants and not fresh peas... because that is about how large they are! Pretty amazing!
I had often seen them in the fridge at the Asian supermarket, and have to admit, thought they must be peppers of some kind- the last thing I thought they could be was eggplants! But there you go- super-miniature versions of their big purple brothers! The surprising thing with these is that they are filled with seeds, making them similar to caper berries to eat and also similarly "bitter" tasting. I would say they are tangy, pungent and slightly peppery with a bitter undertone... in a good way. And this is what I did with them!
After pulling them off their stems and actually feeling them properly, I decided that although small, they would take quite a bit of cooking as they were so hard and firm to the touch. So I opted to boil them for 5-6 minutes in water that I had seasoned with equal parts of sugar and salt- 1 tablespoon of each. I figured the salt would help draw out the bitterness and that maybe the sugar would infuse some sweetness into them... a valiant attempt, but I have to tell you that they were still bitter even after this treatment!
I drained them, rinsed them and set them to one side whilst I brought some more water back up to the boil for the noodles- which were of course next on my list of things to do!
I popped the noodles into the water as soon as it had reached a rolling boil and the eggplants into a hot frying pan with a little Thai "Holy Basil" oil. This is the oil that the basil leaves are preserved in when you buy them in the jar at the asian store. It is seasoned with garlic and chili and is hot, spicy and aromatic! 3 good things yet again! Whilst they were sizzling away, I sliced and added a sweet red pepper, some grated ginger, a little lime juice and a squeeze of honey. Last but not least, came some finely chopped coriander/cilantro and a sliced Spring onion. I stirred these in and turned off the heat... dinner was ready to be served!
I served the vegetables on top of the udon noodles, with a sprinkle of chili flakes and sesame seeds and some fresh coriander leaves as a finishing touch. A good accompaniment would be oyster or soy sauce for a little extra seasoning- and should they prove to be too bitter in taste for you, maybe even some of that sweet Thai chili sauce that goes so well with grilled chicken... but I digress... and I am already thinking of another meal! But that my friends is a story for another time... This time around, dig-in and enjoy!