Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Spicy Thai Eggplant

     Healthy Mild Spicy Hot Vegetarian Food!
     While shopping at an Asian food market in Las Vegas, I noticed that the small round Thai Green Eggplant were selling for a nice price.  Thai Green Eggplant are used as a base for making Thai Green Curry and they can be used to make a wide variety of vegetarian recipes.  A spicy Thai vegetable entrée sounded good, so I picked up a bunch of Thai Basil and a few other ingredients.
     Thai Basil has a mellow basil flavor that is not sharp tasting or overpowering.  Regular Thai Basil should not be confused with Thai Holy Basil.  Thai Holy Basil has an interesting complex flavor profile that is similar to Perilla, but it is not always available in food markets.
     Garlic and Thai Chile Pepper are a classic combination for making spicy Thai sauces.  The level of chile pepper heat is always a matter of personal choice.  Most Thai restaurants offer spicy food on a scale of one to ten.  One is the mildest and ten is the hottest.  Customers usually prefer spicy level #1 through #3, because these are mild flavors.  Spicy heat level #10 is fiery hot and this level of spicy heat sure will bring tears to the eyes!
     Thai chile peppers are one of the hottest peppers that there is, so for a mild spicy heat level only 1/2 to 1 Thai pepper should be used.  Red Serrano Peppers are also used to create mild spicy food.  Course ground Red Serrano Chile Pepper Paste (sambal) is easy to work with and it adds a classic mild chile pepper flavor.
     That stir fry is not done like Chinese style stir fry.  The temperatures are much lower and rich coconut milk starts the recipe.  To start a Thai style stir fry recipe, coconut milk is rapidly simmered and reduced till it turns into coconut oil, then the meats, vegetables or aromatic ingredients are added.  Starting a Thai style stir fry with a coconut oil product does save time in a home kitchen and the flavor is almost as good as cooking coconut milk till it turns into oil.  The difference is the sauce consistency.  Coconut oil products are refined, so the sauce will have a thinner consistency.    
     The key to cooking the eggplant in this recipe is to use multiple reductions of a small amount liquid over high heat.  Adding too much liquid at one time will cause the eggplant to become mushy, like boiled eggplant.  Cooking at too low of a temperature will cause the eggplant to simmer and become mushy too.
     Today's recipe is made quickly at a moderate temperature.  As soon as the eggplant becomes tender, the basil leaves are added and the entrée should be immediately served.  By adding the basil late in the recipe, the Thai Basil retains its full flavor profile.

     Spicy Thai Eggplant:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     The chile pepper heat level is mild to medium.  The spicy heat level can be adjusted to personal preference.  
     Be sure to prepare all the ingredients ahead of time!  Have the spices, oil and fish sauce ready, because this recipe progresses quickly.
     Coconut milk can be simmered till it turns into coconut oil to start the recipe.  Using a coconut oil product is a nice convenience and it reduces the cooking time.  
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan or mini wok over medium heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of coconut oil.
     Add 6 chopped garlic cloves.
     Sauté the garlic till it starts to turn a golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 7 or 8 Thai Green Eggplant that are cut into thick wedges.
     Sauté the eggplant till golden brown highlights start to appear.
     Step 3:  Add 1 tablespoon of Coarse Ground Red Serrano Chile Pepper Sauce.  (sambal)
     Add 1 chopped Red Thai Chile Pepper.  (Optional for medium spicy heat.)
     Briefly sauté for a few seconds till the chile pepper is aromatic.
     Step 4:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of Thai Fish Sauce.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till the liquid is almost evaporated.
     Step 5:  Repeat Step 4.
     *Check the eggplant.  The eggplant should be tender, but not mushy.  If the eggplant is still firm, then repeat Step 4 one more time.
     Step 6:  After the eggplant is tender and the liquid is almost evaporated, add 1/2 tablespoon of lime juice.
     Add about 15 to 20 whole Thai Basil leaves.
     Toss the ingredients together till the Thai Basil wilts and becomes aromatic.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the Spicy Thai Eggplant on the center of a plate.
     Garnish the plate with a Thai Basil sprig and a few Thai Basil leaves.

     This Green Eggplant entrée has a nice aromatic flavor!

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