Eggplant With Salted Fish & Curry Leaves
This Cantonese classic, usually cooked with minced pork and lightly braised in a soy-based sauce is just as tasty sans meat. Instead, it gets an aromatic boost with curry leaves which tango well with bird’s eye chilli. Don’t skip the salted fish – it’s de rigueur as it adds depth of flavour to simple home-cooked fare. Enjoy it with Salted Fish Bone Vegetable Curry and Steamed Meatballs with Pickled Lettuce.
Total Time: 35 minutes
A: Main Ingredients
2 medium brinjals, cut into 1.3cm x 5cm strips
½ cup cornflour
¾ cup cooking oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 slice mackerel salted fish (mei xiang) *, rinsed and broken up
3 stalks curry leaves, rinsed, stalks removed
2 bird eye chillies, sliced with seeds intact
Salt and pepper to taste
½ teaspoon vegetarian granules or chicken stock powder
1. Heat up 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Fry salted fish till crisp, then set aside to cool.
2. Soak eggplant in water for 10 minutes to prevent it from discolouring. Drain. Coat eggplant lightly with cornflour.
3. Heat up ½ cup oil over medium heat. Fry eggplant strips until light brown. Set it aside.
4. Heat up wok or saucepan over medium heat.
Pour in remaining oil and sauté garlic for 30 seconds.
Toss in salted fish followed by curry leaves.
Continue cooking for another 30 seconds.
5. Stir in chillies and then eggplant. Add seasoning. Cook another 2 minutes before turning heat off.
6. Serve with steamed fragrant rice.
NOTE: : Mei xiang salted fish is mackerel that is cured, sundried and is sold cut in pieces at wet markets. It also comes in a jar submerged in oil and is available in major supermarkets. It has a softer, crumbly texture with pungent briny overtones bearing seductive umami accents.
It differs in texture and taste from the drier salted fish – threadfin or ikan kurau – with origins in Penang, Malaysia. It is cured in salt and sundried.
PHOTOS: Kristy Wong
BUYING TIP: Long purple eggplant, with less as well as smaller seeds than the rounder and graffiti (white markings) cultivars is ideal for stirfries.
TECHNIQUE: Eggplant has the tendency to absorb oil during frying owing to its spongy texture. To prevent this, it is coated in cornflour which also acts as a shield to retain its vibrant skin colour while deep-frying. Hence, less oil is needed.
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