Keeping your Brinjal's colour and the Fried Brinjal with Dried Shrimps and Sambal Recipe

Monday, August 17, 2015

Brinjal. Eggplant. Aubergine.

Depending on where you live, it bears a different name. It also comes in many different shapes: round, oval and long. One thing is certain, it is popular in many cuisines and there are many ways to cook it. As I have mentioned it is a star piece of a Hakka Yong Tau Foo spread.

For regular dinners, to cook it the "Chinese" wok style, I will add it straight to the wok after making "fragrant" ingredients like garlic and sambal.

It will normally end up mushy with an unappetising brown colour.
What happened to the beautiful violet?

What makes bridal delicious is when the skin is crisped and the flesh is creamy.
But a mushy stir-fried brinjal dish is what you will normally get from your home wok.

The contrast in texture and appealing colors are some of the reasons why we like eat them in Cze Char stalls.

A simple science is happening here. When the skin is heated up, it will oxidise and lose it's colour. And so, you need to cook it the way it is done in Cantonse Cze Char stalls: take a two-step approach.

First, you deep and quick fry it in hot oil for about 1.5 to 2 minutes. Keep the skin submerged in the oil. This is easily done as the brinjal can be cut into shapes which resemble a boat (curved bottom). It will "boat up" naturally in the oil (see photo). Viola - you get your violet.

The boat shaped brinjal will "flesh up"
Then you drain it. Next,  you prepare your other ingredients ad after stir frying it, add the brinjal back in for a quick mix and fry.

Yes, it involves more oil but with good deep-frying technique and draining, you can minimise the oiliness. Remember that it needs to bubble when you first put it in as moisture is escaping. The steam from the moisture is actually cooking the brinjal as well. But if you fry it for too long, the oil will soak back in. And so, timing is important. Experiment.

This also means that if you want to boil your brinjal and keep the color, you need to keep the skin part submerge it in hot water. And yes, steaming will not help much as the skin will still turn brown.

There are many different ways you can flavour the brinjal after you have deep fried it. I include here a simple recipe.

Note: I have also blogged a steamed brinjal recipe here.

Fried Brinjal with Dried Shrimps and Sambal Recipe

2 pieces of long brinjal
1 Tablespoon of dried shrimps
1 Tablespoon of Sambal (Chilli paste)
1 teaspoon of tau cheong (brown soy paste)

To garnish:
Diced red chillies
Diced spring onions


1. Cut the brinjal a half an inch "boat" shape. If you are not deep frying immediately, remember to soak it in water so that the flesh won't turn brown.
2. Heat up oil in your wok or pot for deep-frying. You can use your hand and place it above the oil to gauge whether ti is hot enough or add a piece of brinjal to see if it bubbles.
3. Deep fry the brinjal pieces for 1.5 to 2 minutes. The pieces should be "flesh up" and if not, just give it a tilt. Drain.
4. Remove the oil but leave a bit inside. Add garlic, dried shrimp, and sambal chilli. Amount is actually up to you. Add some soy sauce and sugar if you like. Brown the garlic but do not burn it. Control the fire.
5. Add the brinjal back in. After 30 seconds of stir-frying, it is done.

Garnish and serve immediately.

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