Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sea Spice Aubergine

I first tried sea spice aubergine a few years ago at the recommendation of the owner of a little Vietnamese restaurant we used to frequent. When I asked him what it was he shrugged and said it's nice, you'll like it. He was right. I've had it many times since in other restaurants but could never find a recipe for it. I googled it - my fall back response whenever I need information - but without success. The results are all for takeaway menus from Swindon not recipes to follow at home. I scanned the shelves of Chinese supermarkets and found nothing marked sea spice. I asked but got a blank look in reply.

All very curious.

Then one day I was reading about something else and it mentioned that sea spice aubergine are sometimes called fish fragrant aubergine because the combination of spices is usually used to cook fish dishes. So I googled fish fragrant aubergine and finally got a result - I can't tell you how delighted I was. The recipe I liked the best comes from the Chinese Healthy Living website. I rushed home that night to try it out - and to my delight it was brilliant. I made it again last night with pork and green peppers and steamed basmati rice. It was very very good.

Sea-spiced Aubergines

750g/1 1/2lb aubergine
1/2 tbspn olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 slices fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely sliced
50ml/2oz vegetable stock or water
1 tbspn yellow bean sauce
1 tbspn Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tspn shoyu or tamari sauce 2 spring onions, chopped, to serve

Put the aubergine ina foil-lined roasting tin and bake in teh centre of a preheated oven, 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6, for 30-35 minutes until soft and wrinkly. Remove and set aside to cool, then cut into 2.5 cm/1 inch cubes.

Heat the oil in a nonstick sauté pan over a high heat until hot, add the garlic, ginger and chilli and stir-fry for a few seconds till fragrant. Stir in the stock, yellow bean sauce, rice wine and shoyu sauce and bring to the boil. Add the aubergine cubes and simmer for about 5 minutes. Slowly stir in the cornflour paste and cook until the sauce has thickened and turned transparent.

Sprinkle with chopped spring onions and serve immediately.

Yellow bean sauce and shoyu are probably only available from Asian food stores - or online for mail order if you don't have one locally. This is such a lovely dish that they are well worth hunting down.

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