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Thai eggplant with chilli and basil in yellow bean sauce

Yellow bean sauce is sold in jars as a thick paste and is a ubiquitous part of any Chinese pantry. It is made from soybeans that are left over from the soy sauce-making process. It is also called fermented bean sauce or "Hugan jiang" locally. It is a thick paste with a subtle flavour that is very complex and adds the much-needed "umami" to the dish. It is generally used in stews and curries in small quantities. There are also other variations of this sauce found across most of Southeast Asia.

This is a simple summer dish, quick to make and light. The sauce is a lovely combination of fermented soybeans that give the dish a full "umami" feel and richness. The peppers add subtle flavours and colour to the dish and the eggplants are perfect.

This is a thin cookbook, filled with vegan recipes that are outstanding. Super simple recipes from traditional salads, fried foods, noodles and curries, like this one, make this my go-to cookbook for vegetarian Thai cuisine. Vatch, as he is known, has published several cookbooks, runs some excellent restaurants around the world and teaches Thai cooking at his school.

For more wonderful recipes from this cookbook, click here.


1 large eggplant

Oil spray



2 tablespoons peanut oil

3-4 garlic cloves, slices

3-4 green chillies, sliced thinly, or to taste

1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon yellow bean paste

1 1/2 cups water or stock

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt, to taste

20 Thai basil leaves

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Cut the eggplant into wedges longitudinally. Spray with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Layer on a lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for 35-45 minutes until very soft. Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a wok on high and add the garlic and fry till lightly golden, about 45 seconds. Add the green chillies and fry for an additional 20 seconds.

Add the peppers and cook for 2 minutes till the peppers are charred. Add the yellow bean paste and stir into the mix cooking for 30 seconds. Add the water/stock, soy sauce and salt (be careful the sauces have tons of salt in them) and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Taste and adjust salt as needed. This is a light runny curry that should have a lovely flavour.

To serve, heat up the sauce and layer on a shallow bowl. Heat the eggplant up in the oven and layer on top. garnish with basil and serve immediately with sticky rice or noodles.

The traditional method for making this dish is to cook the eggplant in the sauce, add after you add the stock, and simmer till soft. However, I find that the eggplant tends to break up and make the sauce not as attractive. I have reconstructed this dish to both improve the texture of the eggplant and for visual purposes.

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