Our niece, the princess, recently returned to Indonesia after living with us for several years while she went to college here. Although we would have liked it if she had stayed longer, we certainly understood her desire to return home to her mother, grandmother, and miserable dogs. At the same time, her departure has expanded the foods we're able to enjoy.
Despite coming from an archipelago blessed with some tremendous seafood, the princess is allergic to all that the ocean produces. She also claims to be allergic to eggplant. She doesn't claim to be allergic to carrots, but has an aversion to them that borders on the phobic. Since her return to Indonesia, I've reintroduced these items to our table.
Eggplant is a vegetable that people generally love or hate. Mishandled, it can be god-awful--greasy, salty, or bitter. That is especially true for the larger, globe eggplant. Asian eggplant tend not to be as bitter. Roasted, they have a subtle sweetness and a silken texture. Ca tim nuong, Vietnamese grilled eggplant, combines the eggplant with scallion oil and a salty-sweet dressing of fish sauce, lime juice, chilies and sugar. Mix in some crab meat and serve on top of fried won ton triangles and you've got a wonderful appetizer, perfect for autumn when eggplants are at their best.
As much as I enjoyed it, this is not something I would have cooked for the princess's birthday this week had she still been here. Still, I hope she had a wonderful time with family and friends in Surabaya.
Roasted Eggplant and Crab Meat Salad on Won Ton Triangles
Two slender, Japanese or Chinese, eggplant
1/2 cup crab meat (preferably fresh)
3 TBS mint, finely julienned
3 TBS Thai basil, finely julienned
2 scallions (green onions), green parts only, finely sliced into thin rounds
2 TBS vegetable oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 clove of garlic
2 TBS fish sauce
2--3 TBS sugar
1 red chili, seeded and minced (I didn't have any on hand, so I left it out)
1 TBS Thai sweet chili sauce
Prick the eggplants with a fork in 6 to 8 places. Roast over a hot grill until softened. When cool, peel, cut into 2 inch lengths and pull the pieces into shreds. Heat the oil to smoking, then pour over the scallions. Pour over the shredded eggplant.
Mix the eggplant and scallions with the crab meat and herbs. Lightly drizzle with the dressing. Serve on top of won ton triangles for an appetizer. This can also be served as an accompaniment to other dishes with rice.