IT WAS a brilliant idea – brinjal, but steamed, rather than fried, baked or grilled, as it normally is.
"Picture provided by SPH"
This method of cooking delivers the sweetness of brinjal without the oiliness associated with this vegetable or more strictly, fruit. And gives it a winning velvetiness.
I was recently served such a pristine brinjal at an overseas Chinese restaurant where the food usually displays the peasant roots of Chinese fare.
Unusually it was a refined dish, for it had only the vegetable, steamed till silky, topped with a lean minced meat and finished off with fragrant garlic oil.
Besides this garlic dressing, the seasoning was restrained, making it an excellent recipe for healthy eaters and suitable for eating regularly, for it does not pall.
And regular eating of brinjal is recommended for it is an excellent source of potassium, calcium and fibre. Many essential B-complex vitamins such as B5, B6, B1 and B3 are also found in it.
Indeed it is so nutritious that it is sometimes known as a poor man’s meat. There are different varieties and shapes available in S E Asian markets – long, bulbous and round. And they come in colours white, green and the more familiar purple.
Pick the healthy looking, brightly colored fruit. A firm stalk will also indicate that it is fresh.
Whatever the variety, there is little worry about overcooking brinjal for it is sturdy. I use the tender and slender purple Asian brinjal for this recipe and peel it, though actually the skin is where the antioxidants reside.
To obtain a softer topping, just add a bit of wine and water to the minced chicken mixture before adding it to the vegetable.
Finally the garlic oil. There is an excellent product in the market – fried garlic in oil that will conveniently give a rich finish to this otherwise clean dish.
Steamed brinjal with minced chicken and mushroom
(For four, as part of a meal)
- 2 slim purple eggplants, about 20 cm long or 1 long one
- 100 g minced lean chicken
- 1 head shimeji mushrooms or any other, chopped
- 1 Tbsp light soya sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp rice wine
- 2 Tbsp water
- White pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp browned garlic bits and oil
- 1 stalk spring onion, chopped
- 2 red chillies, sliced
- Half fill a wok with water and bring to the boil. In the meantime, peel brinjal using a vegetable peeler and slice thickly into a bowl of water mixed with a little lemon juice to prevent it from oxidising.
- Drain brinjal slices, pat dry with kitchen towels and place on a heatproof plate.
- Place minced chicken, chopped mushrooms and seasonings in a basin. Add water and wine and mix well together. Spread mixture on top of brinjal.
- Place plate in the wok and steam covered over a medium fire for about 10 minutes until vegetable is tender.
- Garnish with garlic bits and oil, spring onion and red chilli. Serve as part of a Chinese meal with rice.