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Indonesian sweet soy eggplant

The basis for most Indonesian cuisine flavours comes from kecap manis. It is a sweetened soy sauce that is thick and has a tremendous "umami" feel on your tongue. It is used in a number of ways, as a dip, as a marinade and as a cooking sauce as in this case. I love everything about kecap manis and my pantry is never without a bottle handy.

This rather simple dish was quite spectacular. the sweetness of the kecap manis is balanced by spice from the chillies and pepper. It is the perfect balance of sweet and spicy with soft eggplants nestled in the sauce. Serve this dish with rice or rich Malay parathas to be able to sop up all the delicious sauce.

This is a beautiful cookbook on Indonesian cuisine. The dishes are wonderful and flavorful and the recipes are very well written. This book brings a diversity of cuisine to my kitchen and table. Lara Lee brings to you recipes that have been handed down through generations orally, as well as newer recipes in a very easy-to-read format. This is a great book for those who want to learn about this cuisine and culture.

For more delicious recipes from this cookbook click here


For the spice paste:

8 garlic cloves

4 shallots, peeled

3-4 red chillies, seeded if you want a milder sauce

1 1-inch piece galangal, or 1 heaped tablespoon ginger paste

3-4 tablespoons water

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons coconut oil or sunflower oil

2 1-inch pieces of lemongrass

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon black pepper

Salt, to taste

1/2 teaspoon palm sugar or jaggery

1/2 cup kecap manis

1 cup water

7-8 baby eggplants, slit on the stem into 4

Cilantro, minced, for garnish

Add all the ingredients for the spice paste and just enough water to make a thick smooth paste. Set aside.

Heat the oil on medium-low heat in a small pot, add the spice paste, lemongrass, and bay leaf, and fry for 3-4 minutes until the paste thickens and the oils glisten on the surface.

Add the dry spices, nutmeg, coriander, white pepper, black pepper, salt (careful kecap manis has lots of salt), palm sugar, kecap manis, and water. Mix well and bring to a gentle boil.

Add the eggplants and mix in well. Simmer with the lid on for 15 minutes till the eggplants are very tender. Stir the pot, scraping the bottom, with a rubber spatula, so the sticky kecap manis do not stick and burn. Taste for salt. the sauce should be sweet followed by spice and heat. The sauce should be thick and stick with the oils pooling on the surface.

Serve hot garnished with cilantro and paired with rice.

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