Inspired by the growing pile of Japanese eggplant in the fridge, I was excited to find a tantalizing Indonesian recipe from Chef Menon of Shiok Far-Eastern Cuisine that spiced them up with a creative combination of flavors. I did end up straying a bit from the original recipe, and was a bit disappointed with the result – due to my own error, of course. The chili sauce I made was too spicy for my taste, overpowering the other flavors, perhaps because I ran out of basil before I prepared my own plate. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it, however, and said the basil and lime juice really balanced out the spiciness and that the heat level was pronounced but not overwhelming. Even I could see the potential and definitely want to try this recipe again… I’ll just be sure to use few chili peppers next time. I might also try chopping rather than slicing the eggplant and stir-frying them with the sauce rather than pan-frying them, and cutting the lime into wedges and serving on the side so people could squeeze it on to their personal taste. Or perhaps add it directly to the sauce, as called for in the original recipe, so its easier to control the balance.
With those caveats in mind, here’s my simplified preparation of the dish. This made enough for three small servings.
3 medium Japanese eggplant, thinly sliced
Oil (olive or sesame if you have it)
A sprinkle or two of sugar
2 chopped hot chili peppers, or to taste (I used 4 – too much!)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
Juice of a lime
Place eggplant in a bowl and toss with oil, soy sauce, and sugar, then set aside, tossing every so often when the top begins to dry out. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, sauté garlic and chili peppers in oil over medium-high heat until they begin to soften, then add tomatoes and sprinkle of salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat. Fry eggplant in oil until golden on both sides (for me it took about 2-3 minutes on first side, and only about a minute on the other). Drain on paper towels, then place some on each plate and spoon chili sauce on top. Sprinkle with basil and squeeze a little lime juice over it, to taste.