Plump, firm, bright purple in colour – ‘Eggplant’ as it is widely known here in America, commonly called ‘Aubergine’ in Europe, and liltingly called ‘Brinjal’ in my homeland in South-East Asia, is rather bitter when raw but easily absorbs flavours used in the cooking process. Its versatility is evidenced by its widespread use in varying cuisines around the world, using a range of preparation techniques. Here is one of my staple recipes using only a handful of ingredients that are easily found in my pantry. Asian eggplants which are elongated in shape are easily available here and is what I have used, cut into 2″ x ½” strips. If using oval-shaped ones, they can be cut into semi-circular pieces, ½” cubes or any shape that is easy to eat. Braising allows the eggplant to slowly soak up the sauces, giving it a complex, rich taste.
2 medium-sized eggplants, cut into 2″ x ½” strips
½ lb minced pork
5 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Cilantro, to garnish
4 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing) or dry sherry
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoon black vinegar
2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon pepper
1. Prepare sauce and mix well. Set aside.
2. Heat a little oil in a wok. Add pork into hot oil, breaking up the pieces constantly to prevent clumping.
3. When pork is half-cooked, add a little more oil and reduce the heat.
4. Add garlic and eggplant. Cook till eggplant starts to wilt at the edges, about 2-3 minutes.
5. Add mushrooms and cook for 1 minute.
6. Add sauce and bring it to a boil, stirring to coat eggplant in the sauce. A little water (no more than ½ cup) may be added if sauce is insufficient.
7. Reduce heat to a medium simmer and cover till eggplant is fully cooked and sauce has mostly been absorbed.
8. Garnish with cilantro.
A twist on the classic ‘Cashew Chicken’. This dish features celery as the main ingredient, making for a healthier option. Season the chicken well, according to your personal taste. A dash of paprika or turmeric adds a more exotic flavor. Chili powder offers a spicy kick. The small amount of protein will go a long way in enticing the palette. Picky eaters will forget they are eating vegetables.
1/2 lb chicken, cubed, and lightly seasoned with cornstarch and pepper
3 cups celery, diced
A handful of roasted cashews
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1. Fry garlic till just about to turn golden.
2. Toss chicken and quickly fry till half-cooked.
3. Add celery, starting with stems which take more time to cook than leaves, if any.
4. Season with soy sauce and oyster sauce. Lower heat and cook for 1 minute.
Easy weekday dinner with minimal clean up! Can also be served as an easy appetizer.
1lb broccoli, cut into small florets and stemmed
4 cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
3 tbsp oblige oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp sea salt
Grated cheddar cheese (or any hard, sharp cheese)
Toss broccoli and mushrooms with olive oil, salt, cumin seeds in a large bowl.
Bake for 20 minutes in 425F, less for crunchier florets.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese.
Summer brings with it long days, sunshine, clear skies and its cornucopia of lush fruits and vegetables. Looking around my kitchen one afternoon, wondering what to make for dinner, I pondered a single leftover sun-ripened tomato-in-vine and an ear of white corn that recently left the farm. Now I can feast on corn boiled in nothing but water for the entire harvest season, as I had done the past 2 days, but my husband does not care for the flossing that needs follow. A quick look around my pantry resulted in this global mix of cuisine – north asian noodles with south-east asian dried seafood with summer bounty found in western climes.
2 skeins shanghai (white) noodles, cooked according to instructions
1 ripe tomato
1 white or sweet corn, kernels shucked
3 sprigs leaves from shallots, chopped finely (or spring onions)
4 chinese dried mushrooms, soaked and sliced
tip-of-handful dried shrimp, soaked
tip-of-handful ikan bilis (anchovies), soaked to remove excessive salt
2 dried scallops, soaked to soften
chinese cooking wine
Saute garlic till fragrant.
Add corn kernels and stir-fry generously for about 30 seconds.
Add in dried mushrooms and keep frying at high heat.
Add in shrimp, ikan bilis and scallops till mostly cooked.
Toss in tomatoes and give it quick stir. The ingredients should be mostly quite dry by now.
Add a splash of cooking wine, a dash of fish sauce adjusted to taste and about 2 tbsp of water reserved from soaked shrimp and scallops. Keep heat high for 10 seconds before lowering to medium heat to simmer for about 1 minute.
Stir in shallot leaves before serving.
Diced chicken with cashew nuts and celery is a staple in any chinese restaurant in the bay area. I have often found it slightly odd because growing up, celery was imported and not a common food item. It was not easily found in a wet market, and if it were, probably did not offer as much value for money as spinach or choy sum or kai lan. Nonetheless, this dish is common in the American-Chinese diet, just as broccoli beef is (that’s a story for another day).
1 chicken breast, diced
½ bunch celery, diced
½ cup raw cashew nuts
1 tbsp corn/potato starch
1 tbsp soy sauce
dash of sesame oil
dash of pepper
1. Marinate chicken. Leave in fridge for an hour.
2. Saute garlic till fragrant.
3. Just as garlic starts to turn brown, chicken and saute on high heat to seal in flavours.
4. When edges of chicken starts to brown, add cashews and saute till nuts also start to just very slightly brown.
5. Add celery. Give a couple of quick stirs, about 30 seconds.
6.Simmer in 2-3 tbsp water, or reserved liquids from soaking mushrooms or shrimp, till liquid is mostly absorbed.
1 lb green beans, ends trimmed, cut into 1″ length
½ lb prawns, tails intact, deveined and slit
2 tbsp chinese cooking wine
salt/sugar to taste
Blanch green beans in salted, boiling water. Drain and place into iced water to stop the cooking process.
Saute garlic till fragrant.
Add prawns to high heat. Saute quickly till prawns begin to turn pink.
Add green beans, keeping heat high. Toss thoroughly.
Lower to medium heat after about 10 seconds, adding salt/sugar to taste if necessary.
Remove from heat when prawns and beans are cooked through.
This a quick and easy one that also meets my daily quota of coloured vegetables.
Tips: I found that using my fingers worked better at getting the seasoning into the eggplant, especially over the rounded, skinned surfaces.
Avoid making the slices too thin, some thickness is needed to get into the ‘meat’ of the eggplant when cooked.
2 Asian eggplants, sliced lengthwise 2″ long, ¼” thick
freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Season eggplant well in garlic, black pepper and oil.
Pan-fry over medium heat in a just a little oil to prevent sticking, allowing to char slightly.
Remove when both sides are charred to your liking.
This is very similar the Filipino Pritong Talong. You can add savoury dip that can be found in the recipe in related post below.