Anaïs Ca Dao is the kind of friend who will come to your house, sniff in your fridge and cook you lunch; while eating it, she will then want to discuss in detail what is for dinner. Today’s dish was this dinner, born out of our mutual love for sweet and sour tamarind dishes from Thailand. Cooking involves the meditative flipping of eggplants until they turn tan and soft, and the sweating of onions until they glisten like slices of ruby. It’s the perfect thing to cook with when you have a friend in the background to chat with, especially when there are more meals to discuss.
Aubergines with tamarind and Thai basil
Don’t skimp on the eggplant and onion cooking times, it’s what takes this recipe from good to great. You will need a large skillet for the eggplant.
Preparation 10 minutes
To cook 1 hour
2 large eggplants (600g)
2 red onionspeeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 garlic clovespeeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons tamarind paste
½ tablespoon light soy sauce
15g Thai basilpicked leaves
Cooked Jasmine Riceto serve
Trim and discard the eggplant stems, halve the bulbs lengthwise, then cut each half into long wedges about 4-5cm at their widest part.
Put four tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and prepare a plate. When the oil is hot, place a few eggplant quarters on one of their cut sides and in a single layer, and cook for 3 minutes. Flip the eggplant wedges over to the other cut side, cook for another 3 minutes, then transfer to the plate. Add an additional tablespoon or two of oil to the pan and repeat with the remaining eggplant wedges.
In the same skillet, lower the heat to medium, add another three tablespoons of oil and, when hot, add the minced onion and a teaspoon of salt. Stirring rarely, sweat the onions for about 12 minutes, until nicely browned; if at any time they threaten to stick and burn, add a little water (up to a few tablespoons). Stir in the garlic and cook for three more minutes, or until the onions are caramelized and tender.
Add the chili flakes, sugar, tamarind paste, soy sauce and 175ml water to the pan, then stir in the eggplant wedges. Reduce heat to medium-low, simmer for 10 minutes, then flip eggplants and simmer another 10 minutes, or until eggplants are tender.
Lift the eggplant wedges one by one on a platter, overlapping them carefully. Add the Thai basil leaves to the remaining tamarind and onion sauce in the pan, stir until it melts into the mixture, then pour over the eggplant. Serve with jasmine rice.