Big and bold flavours for brinjal


SAMBAL terung (eggplant) is one of those dishes I look out for whenever I eat at a Malay gerai nasi campur (mixed rice stall).

I simply love the robust flavour of the sambal melded into the luscious texture of the eggplant.

There are several ways to cook sambal terung but my favourite is the one where an eggplant, split into two, is deep-fried until soft then smothered with a good layer of sambal.The brinjal, deep-fried and smothered in sambal. — Photos: RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The StarThe brinjal, deep-fried and smothered in sambal. — Photos: RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star

This method of cooking eggplant results in a dish that is dripping in oil and is so packed with flavour that I tend to eat it with a lot of rice. A guilty pleasure!

The oil that is used for frying the eggplant is also used to crispen the shrimps and later, for sauteing sambal.

This layering of flavours really adds depth to the dish and it will be a waste to toss out the oil.

I’ve already reduced the total oil in this dish to about half a cup, which will not show up when it is finally served.

One of the ways to mitigate the use of too much oil is to roast the eggplant in the oven for 20 minutes.

I have not tried this method but someone on the Internet made his version of terung sambal with roasted eggplant.

The preferred variety for sambal terung is the long brinjal, but it doesn’t really matter which type of eggplant is used.

I managed to get the round aubergine, which is more fleshy, but you may substitute with almost any eggplant variety.

The final garnish of onions and chili adds another layer of flavour and crunch to the sambal, but you may omit them if you do not like these raw.

I especially like the piquancy of raw onion, which lends a fresh bite to the sambal.

Serve the dish immediately while it is warm. It may be eaten cold but must be consumed on the day it is made because cooked eggplant does not keep very long.

The sambal can be kept for about a week in the refrigerator and any leftover can be eaten spread over bread or as a condiment with most dishes.

Sambal terung

Ingredients

4 brinjals

1 tsp salt

½ cup cooking oil

20g dried shrimps, coarsely chopped

10g toasted belacan, or 1 tbsp belacan powder

1 bulb red onion, finely sliced, reserve a handful for garnish

Sambal paste2 bulbs red onions

5 pods red chilies

3 cloves fresh garlic

4 kernels candlenut

5 tbsp chili paste

4 tbsp chili sauce

½ tsp salt to taste

1 tsp sugar to taste

Garnish1 pod red chili, finely sliced

1 pod green chili, finely sliced

Method

Split the eggplants length-wise into two, then sprinkle with salt and set aside to marinate for about 20 minutes.

Alternatively, cut into 4cm lengths, then cut into wedges.

To make the sambal paste, puree all the ingredients in a blender into a fine paste. Add a bit of oil, if necessary, for a smooth blend.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and fry the eggplants flesh side down first until lightly browned for about 5 minutes, flip and brown the skin side for another 5 minutes.

Then flip repeatedly to expel excess moisture until the eggplant is soft. Remove from the oil and arrange on a serving dish.

Fry the dried shrimps in the oil until crispy, then remove from oil and set aside.

In the remaining oil, fry the toasted belacan until fragrant. Add the red onion and sauté until wilted. Then add the sambal paste and sauté for about 15 minutes until the oil rises.

Then return fried shrimp to the pan and toss in the finely sliced red chili, green chilli and onion to garnish.

Spoon dollops of sambal on the eggplant to serve, garnished with more sliced chili and onions.

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