Tarkovsky & Salted fish, mince pork eggplant

December 19, 2016

I can reproduce most dishes with remarkable fidelity. This I can do very well. But I don’t ever believe it’s possible to do the same with aubigines. You see it’s hardly my lack – it’s the quirky way they grow thru out the year – eggplants are really only good to wok between the months of December and early January.

That’s my take…at least.

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During what I call the dying and rebirth months – as December is the month when the North easterly monsoon rains begins to slowly die off. January is the month of rebirths – that’s when the cold front moves in from the east and flowers begin to bloom.

Those are the only two months in a year – when I usually cook egg plant as much as I can – as those are the only months when they don’t ever taste like egg plant at all….. I am very particular about my egg plants – I don’t like them to be squishy and slimy, much prefer them to be slightly crunchy like cucumber straight out of the fridge.

Whenever I prepare my egg plant dishes. I do so with an approaching solemnity. I know that sounds very odd to most people – the idea that cooking can be so serious and even artful. But with egg plants I reckon that’s not too difficult. For one they look almost unlike any veggies one usually comes across with their mysterious purplish sheen – at times when I look at egg plants they almost resemble alien food….you wouldn’t really think so when you see the tree that bears these veggies. As they look pretty sundry and hardly strange at all.

But the veggies are all together a different story – I like especially like the texture of the exterior skin membrane, it resembles Mylar some high tech Teflon that makes me wish I have a neck as long as a giraffe as it slides down.

Any way to the cooking…

After cutting my egg plants into quartered two inch lengths – I always soak them for a full hour in salted water. The salt helps draws out moisture thru a process of reverse osmosis that keeps them crunchy…it’s a professional trick that I once learnt from a sifu when I worked in a Cantonese restaurant during my foreign student days.

I realize some people cook the mince pork and salted fish separately from the egg plant and only combine them together at the end – but I don’t….I want the mince pork juices to be taken up by the egg plant.

I stage it like so – first the egg plant goes in when the sesame oil has bronzed the chopped garlic…the sound it makes always fills me with excitement….if I time it just right when the oil is just right. It all comes off like the exhaust of a rocket when it’s blasting off.

That’s quickly followed by the minced pork and salted fish – not too much salted fish…maybe just a small cube thinly sliced with a razor that’s soaked prior in water to make it less salty and astringent.

I work fast adding in a generous dollop of chili bean paste – then after stir frying till the juices come out…I never add water. As I want it all to come right out of the eggplant, that enhances the taste immeasurably – thereafter I cover it. Lower the flame and let it all sit for ten or so minutes.

It goes down well with a big bowl of hot rice and cold beer.

I happen to believe I can cook the best egg plant with salted fish and mince pork in the whole wide world.

Maybe I am the Tarkovsky of egg plants…just maybe.

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