I love aubergines (also known as brinjals or eggplant) in any guise but I especially like it done this way, fried or grilled and smothered with an aromatic Malaysian sambal sauce.
Traditionally, this dish tends to use lots of oil in the frying process for the aubergines but a couple of alternative methods are to grill the aubergine or to steam it until soft. These might be healthier and easier options, especially if you have an aversion to frying, like me.
2 Aubergines, cut into 2 inch long batons or whatever creative shapes you like
assam jawa water to taste – 2 tbsp of assam java paste in hot water, sieve and just use the juice. You can now get a ready prepared version which is just the assam paste. You will need less of this than if you used the original assam jawa fruit. Adjust to taste.
sugar to taste (about 1 tsp)
3 tbsp of cooking oil
8 asian shallots (the purple ones)
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp dried shrimp (small orange things) soak in some warm water
10 red chillies (the big long ones, not birds eye chilli)
Grill or roast the aubergines until chargrilled or soft. You don’t need to drench the aubergines in oil like making roast vegetables as we will be adding the oil with the sambal sauce.
Blend all the sambal ingredients. The resulting paste should look red with the chillies being the main ingredient.
To make the sambal, we start off by frying the sambal ingredients in a little bit of oil on a medium heat until fragrant.
Stir to prevent sticking and burning. This will take about 5 – 8 minutes until the pungent smell of the spice mix emerges and the oil should be red in colour at this point. This is tipping point and the first time you discover it is an epiphany, especially for South East Asian cookery. Impatience at this stage is the cause of many failed dishes.
The resulting sambal should be slightly sour from the assam and slightly sweet. You can add a dash of fish sauce to increase the fishiness of the dish, although this is not very Malaysian, but we have to improvise sometimes.
When the sambal is ready, add the aubergines to the pan and coat it in the sambal sauce and serve.