Temple aubergine with sweet chilli shrimp sauce

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    4

Appears in

Food and Travels: Asia

Food and Travels

By Alastair Hendy

Published 2004

  • About

You can either fry, roast or grill the aubergine. If roasted or grilled, the skin should be stripped off afterward and tossed away, and a Lao cook would pound the flesh to a paste (like babaganoush). Anything melting in the aubergine department is temple food for me, and - just-like-a-prayer - this’ll take you there. Monks love it too.

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp shrimp paste
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp chopped shallots
  • 5 red birdseye chillies, chopped
  • 5 dried mild red chillies
  • groundnut oil
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped palm sugar or caster sugar
  • tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 3 narrow violet or 2 regular aubergines
  • 2 tbsp dried shrimp, ground to powder
  • handful of chopped spring onion, fresh mint or fresh coriander

Method

Wrap the shrimp paste in a small square of foil, squashing it flat, then toast in a dry hot pan for a few minutes. Pound the toasted shrimp paste with the garlic, shallots and chillies until pasty, then fry in 2 tbsp oil until it darkens a little. Stir in the sugar and bubble up until it starts to look even darker, then stir in the fish sauce and lime juice, bubble up again, remove from the heat, and leave to go cold.

Cut the aubergines into long round sections - if using regular aubergines cut them into quarters lengthways and then into shorter lengths - and deep-fry in a wok in a generous pool of oil until just cooked through (or roast). To retain their purple-skinned colour, make sure the aubergines are kept dunked while frying. Drain, then serve spooned with the sauce (or put it into dipping bowls), and rain with the ground shrimp and the herby bits.