It is fitting that my last column in Mind&Body should be a sambal dish cooked in a non-traditional manner.
Readers will know that I am Peranakan and most at ease with Nonya dishes. I also resort to short cuts whenever I can.
This one is brinjal (sambal terong), but roasted in the oven instead of being fried the traditional way. It is topped with sambal, shrimp fry, fried shallots and nuts.
My inspiration comes from a similar dish served at Baba Wins in Tiong Bahru Plaza, where a Cantonese woman turns out Peranakan dishes from her mother-in-law's recipes.
ROASTED BRINJALS WITH NUTS, SHALLOTS AND SHRIMP FRY
2 medium-sized brinjals, slit into half, lengthwise
1 red onion, peeled and chopped finely
2 Tbs bottled chilli paste or to taste
Roasted shrimp fry
Fried shallots, available in bottles
Roasted nuts such as pistachios or peanuts
Fresh coriander and 1 stalk spring onion
Heat oven to 180 deg C. Spray oil on brinjals and put them on a tray. When oven is hot, place brinjals inside.
Roast brinjals for 20 to 25 minutes till they are tender.
Heat a teaspoon of oil in a pan and soften the chopped onions. Add the chilli paste and stir well.
Remove brinjals from oven. Spread chilli paste and scatter nuts, shallots and shrimp fry over brinjals.
Garnish with chopped spring onion and coriander.
SERVES THREE TO FOUR
She serves a sambal brinjal, also topped with shrimp fry. I merely added shallots and nuts to it.
It has become a hit, with guests asking for it whenever they come for dinner.
Unlike the traditional Nonyas who fry brinjal, I find it more convenient to roast it in the oven. You remove it when it is nicely coloured and soft upon pressing.
As for the sambal, you could, of course, make it from scratch.
It is one of the classic sambals made from titek paste, the mother spice paste in Nonya cuisine. This is chilli, onion, belacan or shrimp paste and, if you like, you can add candlenut for extra richness.
You pound it or put it in the food processor, then brown it in a little oil until fragrant and spread it over the roasted brinjal.
I opt instead for ready-fried sambal from a bottle (I use Glory or Sing Long Nonya sambal chilli).
I then scatter copious amounts of shrimp fry (I use Japanese roasted sakura ebi for convenience), shallots (sold ready-fried) and roasted nuts (pistachios or whatever you have) over the sambal. This is a dish that gives new meaning to the phrase "eat your vegetables".