Aubergine with shrimp paste

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Terasi (dried shrimp paste) usually lies in the background in Indonesian cooking, adding an undetectable savoury note that brings other flavours into sharp focus. Like fish sauce, the smell is pungent and not to everyone’s taste, but in combination it works its magic and can become addictive. Here is a dish for terasi’s admirers, where it takes on a starring role alongside silky stir-fried aubergine (eggplant).

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 200 g (7 oz) aubergine (eggplant), sliced into 1 cm (½ inch) thick rounds
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
  • 2 lime leaves, deveined and finely shredded
  • ½ teaspoon dark palm sugar (gula jawa), shaved
  • juice of ½ a lime
  • coriander (cilantro), to serve

Bumbu spice paste

  • 1 tomato
  • 1 large red chilli, seeded
  • 1 small red Asian shallot, peeled
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled

Method

In a frying pan over a high heat, add half the oil and swirl to coat the pan. When hot, add the rounds of aubergine in a single layer, cooking in batches if necessary. Cook for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally, until the skin is wrinkled and the flesh is golden and tender. Set the aubergine aside.

To prepare the bumbu spice paste, roughly chop all the ingredients and crush to a rough paste with a good pinch of salt using a pestle and mortar, food processor or high-speed blender.

Return the frying pan to medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the shrimp paste, use a spoon to break it up and let it sizzle in the heat. Add the tomato chilli bumbu and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Add the lime leaves, palm sugar and about 4 tablespoons water. Return the aubergine to the pan and splash over the lime juice. Stir-fry until the aubergine is completely cooked and the sauce clings to it.

Serve with a verdant scattering of coriander leaves.