Friday, June 12, 2009

Terong Balado--Grilled Eggplant in Tomato Chili Sauce

Eggplant is one of those vegetables people either like or detest; it doesn't have a large base of take-it-or-leave-it eaters. People seem to really look forward to its season, or to react violently to the thought of it.

For years in the United States the only eggplants commonly found were the large globe eggplants and sometimes the long Chinese variety. In recent years in northern California a much greater variety of eggplants has appeared in the local farmers' markets. I imagine this is to satisfy immigrants from South and Southeast Asia. In addition to the Chinese, Japanese, and globe eggplants, there are now small green Thai eggplants, white ones, green brinjals, and ones that look like miniature globe eggplants.

Go to any Padang restaurant in Indonesia, or anywhere probably, and you are likely to be presented with a number of balado dishes. Balado is a tomato based chili sauce with shallots and garlic that is served atop beef, eggs, fish, or vegetables. One of the most common ways of serving it is on fried eggplant. In Padang restaurants a variety of dishes are brought to the table and you are charged by the number of plates you choose--kind of like dim sum. The food has been cooked in advance and is served at room temperature with rice. This makes it possible to present a number of dishes without rushing to prepare them. Terong balado is a great dish to prepare for a picnic. I grill the eggplant, but the traditional way is to fry them. For this particular recipe I used the so-called baby eggplants, which resemble miniature globe eggplants.

Terong Balado
1 pound of eggplants, (I wouldn't recommend globe), sliced in half and the flesh scored
3 to 4 shallots, minced
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
5 to 6 roma tomatoes, grilled, then peeled and chopped
4 to 5 red chilies, minced
1 cup of water
2-3 TBS oil
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste

Grill eggplants (or fry) till soft.
Fry shallots and garlic in oil until fragrant. Add chilies, tomatoes, and water. Cook over medium heat until liquid is reduced by a third. Add sugar and salt to taste and continue to cook until mixture is reduced to your liking. Pour over eggplants. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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