There was a spell of sweltering whether enveloping several countries in Europe in the first few weeks of July. The Mercury rose to as high as 40 deg C and there was a heatwave which lasted several days!
Of all days, I met up with some girlfriends for a ladies’ day out, on the hottest Saturday in July! Not that we had picked the date on purpose, but my girlfriends and I had been planning a day out for some time already. The last time I met my friends was last summer, and 4th of July this year, was mutually agreed upon as most of us had holiday plans and other personal prior arrangements.
Chill Out and New Search…
With such uncomfortably hot afternoon, we avoided sitting on the terrace. It was by chance that we walked a bit further and found just the place ~ an air-conditioned bistro somewhere in the centre of Leuven! Cool!
If it was a cool day, I would have ordered the Mussels’ dish, so we ended up ordering some salads and cool ourselves further with ice-creams and slushes. Pure indulgence ;-)
We had a great time catching up and filling in the vacuum of so many lost months, oblivious of the super hot 40+ deg C outside sipping into the crevices of the windows and doors of the bistro. There were many people patronising the bistro that day for the same reason – the aircond! LOL!
After our lunch, we walked further down and chanced upon a new Asian Supermarket. It’s bigger than most Asian stores I have been to in Leuven, hence, I was excited to get my nose around the store :-)
I noticed there were loads of products from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, India, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. Some Singaporean but nothing from Malaysia …
The owner is a Nepalese and the store has been around for a year.
And guess what? I ended up buying a familiar product from Singapore. Laksa!
I haven’t seen this product before. Being the curious me, I bought a packet for try-out :-)
And by the way, I haven’t tried the laksa yet, because I have given priority to another discovery.
My heart fluttered when I saw those nostalgic looking purple brinjals. Gosh, I haven’t eaten that type of “aubergines” in years! The ones in Belgium have shiny dark purple colour, fat and round at the base, while the ones I found at the Asian store had lighter tones of purple. They were actually Chinese eggplants. They have less seeds which made them less bitter and the skins were thinner. I bought 4. As you can see, they were not super fresh anymore and with the hot weather, the stalks dried out, otherwise they were perfect.
When I saw the brinjals, I knew exactly what to do with it, because I had a recipe in mind!
By the way, if you’re wondering why I called the fruit (yes, they are technically a fruit), a brinjal, an aubergine and an eggplant at the same time, well it’s a fruit with 3 names depending on where you are located. Southeast Asians called the fruit, brinjal, while its “eggplant” in Canadian, American and Australian English. British English used the French variation of the word, aubergine, that Belgians are familiar with…
Since I grew up knowing the fruit-veg as brinjal, I called this recipe Spicy-Garlicky Brinjals with Aka Miso (red miso paste).
Why Aka Miso of all ingredients? Well, I happened to have this red miso paste in my fridge for a while and I love experimenting with my cooking ;-)
This recipe is like a “Rojak” ~ mumbo jumbo and all mixed up but turned out perfect!
- 4 brinjals or aubergines or eggplants washed and cut into 5 cm pieces
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cm ginger, grated
- Fresh coriander, roughly torn
- Chives, roughly chopped
- 1 red bird’s eye chilli (chilli padi), minced
- 1 Tbsp Aka Miso (Note: this is Red Miso paste which is quite grainy, quite salty and rich in umami flavours)
- Vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp mushroom soy
- Balsamic vinegar, to taste
- 43g palm sugar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp oyster sauce (optional)
- 1 tsp cornflour
- Quarter lengthways each of the 5cm piece brinjals. Soak in salted water to prevent them from turning colour due to oxidation
- In a clean bowl, mix all the sauce ingredients. Set aside.
- Drain the brinjals through a colander. Transfer the pieces to a steamer and steam for 8 to 10 minutes. It is recommended to check the texture of the brinjals if they are cooked to your desired texture.
- Sauté the minced garlic, ginger, chilli and red miso paste (if you noticed I forgot to include the miso paste in the sautéed ingredients but a wee bit later after the brinjals went in. No worries, because it did not have any impact in the taste at all 😊)
- Add the brinjals and stir to coat the ingredients for a few seconds and then add the sauce. Cook for a further 1 to 2 minutes. Toss in the chopped herbs.
- Ready to serve
I love this Rojak-style of cooking, but with ingredients that made complete sense. The fact that I wanted the dish to turn out sweet, sour, salty, spicy, fragrant and umami, it turned out exactly sweet (palm sugar), sour (balsamic vinegar), salty (aka miso and soy), spicy (bird’s eye chilli), fragrant (garlic, ginger and the fresh herbs) and umami (again the aka miso). Totally bullseye, spot on and bang on the money! It’s a very Asian dish with hints of Thai, Chinese and Japanese. I love it LOTS!
To all Belgians, I wish you a fantastic break on 21st July!
Happy National Feast Day!