Monday, 19 August 2013

Don't Get Confuzed

Piccoli Melanzane Thailandese con Coriandolo Vietnamese
Spicy Yellow & Green Thai Eggplants with Vietnamese Coriander

Thai eggplant... Vietnamese coriander? What craziness is this?!? Oh, just the usual mealtime madness! I bought the lovely little yellow eggplants as I was so taken by their vibrant color... don't laugh- but I had never seen them in yellow before! So of course I picked up a bag- and wouldn't you know it, right behind them were these incredibly cute, purple cousins of theirs- and of course the little green and white ones too! So how could I have resisted? And more to the point... why should I have? ;-)

I picked up a few other things including some lovely, locally grown fresh herbs- and then Mrs Wong asked me if I knew what the lovely little leaves you can see in my photos was. Of course I didn't know and of course she encouraged me to pluck a leaf and taste it... and so I did... and wow! Such a wonderful flavor- so rich and intense... I loved it. And this of course was the Vietnamese coriander- much richer and more robust than our light, feathery cilantro. She was so kind as to pop me a couple of leaves into my bag as she had only just started growing it and the plant needed to get better established. I am just glad that she did have it and totally happy to have something new to try! So- thank you Mrs Wong!

Thai eggplants are much firmer and almost crunch in texture compared to their big brothers- they are full of seeds and have a slightly bitter and peppery undertone to their flavor- but taste wonderfully rich and intense. And I had these lovely yellow and green examples to use for supper! I wanted to save the purple ones for another night- they can be turned into something Italian... tonight I was in the mood for Asian!

I cut the little eggplants into quarters and popped them straight into a steamer with just a little pinch of salt, for 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, I sliced a Spring onion finely on the diagonal and a mini bell pepper also into fine strips. I also cut of about 1" of fresh ginger and finely chopped that too. I wanted to have the other ingredients cook quickly later when I fried them with the eggplant, being as it would already be relatively tender after steaming.

So- 10 minutes or so later I was ready to go! I drained the eggplant, let it sit for 4-5 minutes to cool off a little and stop steaming and heated a little peanut oil up ready t get frying! I like peanut oil because you can get it hot, hot, hot, without it getting smokey. In went the eggplants and the ginger, along with a little crushed garlic. I stirred the eggplant gently ever now and then- not stirring too much... I wanted it to brown slightly but didn't want it to over-cook and go too soft. After 2-3 minutes, I added the peppers and onion, a teaspoon of 5-spice powder, a half teaspoon of turmeric and stirred these in well. I added a handful of snow peas, the juice of half a lime and a drizzle of honey and after a further 2-3 minutes everything was done!

The eggplant still had bite to it, the peppers and peas were crunchy and sweet as a contrast to the slightly bitter and tangy eggplant and the ginger and spice made it lovely and spicy... it was pretty delicious! I added a splash of fish sauce, a light drizzle of hoisin and little squeeze of sriracha sauce to make it really come together. Tabasco would also have worked well- but I decided to stay with the Asian flavors- none of that Irish stuff this evening!

I served up the eggplants on some plain white rice and gave them a tiny drizzle of sesame oil for a little added richness... and last but not least, a nice scattering of the deliciously aromatic Vietnamese coriander leaves- perfect! Whoever claims that vegetarian meals are boring or missing something... well they are probably boring or missing something themselves! Because as much as I enjoy meat, chicken, seafood or fish... this was pretty darned good without any of those things!

Try it and you'll see!

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