Here’s a recipe that will feed two people for under $10.00. The bonus is if you eat it for lunch, you’ll have enough left for dinner (that is, if the one you’re eating with agrees to leave some for later).
- 3 slender eggplants like the ones in the picture. They’re sold in Asian stores (don’t buy the fat ones that supermarkets sell). About $3.00.
- Shrimp paste (picture below, about $2.50 to $3.50 per bottle)
- garlic (5 cloves, diced or smashed)
- small onion (diced)
- Italian tomatoes (2 small ones)
Wash the eggplants well and wipe them dry with paper towel. Cut each into 3-4 pieces and then slice the pieces lengthwise. Turn on your broiler (I have two broil levels – high and low. I use the high level). Arrange eggplant pieces on a cookie tray. Brush with olive oil. Place the eggplants in the broiler (in my oven, I leave them for 10 minutes, rotating the tray every 3 minutes so all the pieces are evenly browned). These are what the eggplants look like after the 10-minute broil:
At this point you have two options: (a) slice the eggplants into bite size pieces or (b) scoop out the flesh, discarding the the skin. I leave the skin on because I like it. It’s edible and does not cause any indigestion…
Set aside your eggplant. In a frying pan, heat some Canola oil (any oil will do), and then add your garlic. Sauté for a minute and then add the onions and tomatoes. Continue sautéing for about 3-4 minutes. Take 2-3 tablespoons of shrimp paste (the amount will depend on how salty you want it) and lower the heat. Using a teaspoon, take a small amount of the mixture and taste it. If it’s too bland, add more shrimp paste. Note that shrimp paste is VERY salty, so there is no need to add salt or pepper to this dish.
Take your onion/garlic/tomato/shrimp paste mixture and pour it over your eggplant. Mix well to make sure that all eggplant pieces are coated.
Word of caution: shrimp paste will not appeal to everyone. In fact some people who have never eaten Asian fare will probably be repelled by it. It’s an acquired taste, a favorite among Filipinos and other Southeast Asians. If you don’t think you can stomach shrimp paste (it doesn’t look palatable either when you look inside the jar :)you can vary this recipe by mixing your onions, garlic and tomatoes in a few tablespoons of vinegar (or you can be creative and use your own vinaigrette or a store-bought dressing).
If you’re a daredevil and think you’ll survive after consuming shrimp paste, here’s a picture of what it looks like. The word “Lingayen” on the label is the brand. There are other brands. Ask your Asian grocer for shrimp paste and you’ll be taken to the right aisle. It keeps well in the fridge for months, thanks to the high salt content.
I know some cooks boil eggplants in water and then when they’re soft, they are peeled and mashed (almost like puréed form) and then mixed in with a nice dressing.
So many ways really! They can also be grilled and used as a garnish for pizza.
How do you cook yours?