The Stove

Ever since I tried bicol express cooked not just with chilies but with eggplant, many many years ago, I have become an eggplant convert. At first, the thought of eating something mushy, kind of like okra (so sue me for my poor descriptive skills), didn’t really appeal to me. But a lot has changed since the first time I tried and actually enjoyed eggplant.

Now, one of my all-time favorite comfort foods would have to be tortang talong or eggplant omelet. There’s something about biting into soft, slightly toasted, smoky eggplant meat that is an experience all on its own. I usually just use liquid seasoning to flavor it some more, but when Mama Eng is in the mood (and I encourage her), she makes a mean “pritong sawsawan” or fried dipping sauce. Toasted minced garlic, onions and a few pieces of sliced bird’s eye chili cooked in oil and soy sauce, paired with the omelet, is a winner.

Today I observed how she makes tortang talong and also helped out in the kitchen a bit, but I don’t have a recipe to share since I’d like to hone my eggplant omelet- making skills some more. I think I’ll let this post simmer a bit before I belt out my own recipe. For now, here’s something you standardized stove owning folks around the world don’t get to see everyday:

Photobucket

Photobucket

Using this (I’m not really sure what to call it) traditional stove top (?) fueled by burning wood and dried coconut husks…she makes magic. This is also where we cook our paella, and it’s pretty much practical and economical to use.

Well, it’s probably more cumbersome than the regular stove, but it gets the job done.

 

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Szechuan Eggplant

It was really Kylie Kwong who introduced me to szechuan/szechwan/sichuan cuisine through her television show. Well, it was really just one episode. I’m not sure how long ago that was, but it was before I saw her as a guest judge on Masterchef Australia.

Anyway, szechuan cuisine is know for simple dishes emboldened by adding chilies, garlic and other flavors that are a trademark of Chinese cuisine (thank you Wiki). The fact that Chinese condiments are readily available in groceries makes discovering this form of cuisine pretty straightforward. Where I come from, of all the different Asian techniques and flavors, Chinese is the most pervasive (hello there Chowking).

Kylie also made this during one of the Masterclass episodes in season 2. At that time I really didn’t have enough inspiration to make it. Then a few days ago, I saw an easy how-to video for the dish (from a newspaper website), and it looked delicious and easy enough to make. I think it was also during that time that I had tortang talong (eggplant omelet); something that I really enjoy eating but have yet to make.

So it seems the forces of nature have spoken.

With an appetite whet, I said to myself “Ok grasshopper, the time has come” *cue the gongs.

Szechuan Eggplant (serves 6 – 8 )

  • 6 medium sized eggplants, sliced crosswise in half then sliced lengthwise into fat sticks.
  • ¼ kg ground pork
  • Half a garlic head, minced
  • One 1 inch piece ginger, sliced
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in ¼ cup water

Marinade:

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • Sauce:
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp chilli garlic paste (Lee Kum Kee)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Optional: 1 tbsp rice wine
  1. In a bowl, combine the ingredients for the marinade and add the pork. Let stand in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a bowl combine the ingredients for the sauce.
  3. In a wok (big enough to hold the eggplants) heat enough sesame oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the ground pork mixture and cook until fat renders and meat is lightly browned.
  4. When cooked, remove from pan. Using the same pan and the oil, over medium heat, add the garlic and ginger and toast until fragrant.
  5.  Add the eggplants and stir – fry to cook until tender. About 3 – 5 minutes.
  6. Add the sauce, the pork and mix well. Add the cornstarch slurry and cook until thickened and eggplants are tender. Serve warm and enjoy!