14 June 2011

pork mince and eggplant in spicy bean sauce

If you've visited my blog several times, you'd have noticed that there aren't many Asian/Chinese dishes here.  Its not because I cook more European dishes.  In fact it's almost a 50/50 split in any given week.  The reason's pretty simple really.

Cooking Asian dishes, in particular Chinese ones, come second nature to me.  I don't really think about it much and certainly don't refer to cookbooks much for them either.  I normally make dishes that I've either grown up with or dishes replicated from something I've eaten that I liked.  Indian curries are probably one of the few Asian cuisines that I refer to a cookbook for.

And because it's much less of an effort for me to cook Asian dishes and I'm almost on 'auto-pilot' when I do, I never think of taking photos, writing down measurements and blogging about it after.  The measurement part is the most difficult as I always cook by taste (and sight) when I cook Asian.  Its usually a splosh or sprinkle of this, a couple of glugs of that, and a pinch of another.

My repertoire of Asian dishes is pretty varied and a mish-mash of influences, coming from more than one region (or dialect group).  This is due to my maternal Hainenese influence, paternal Hokkien and Nonya influences and Cantonese influence from my step-mother and step-grandmother.  A lot of what I cook is made up, and the rest of it is based on memory and taste, and snippets of conversations I've had with my mother, my dad, aunties, cousins, stepmother, step-grandmother...etc.  I wouldn't even consider many of my dishes authentic to their origins - but in terms of taste, certainly more authentic than some of dishes you get at Asian eateries in town.

So as I was cooking away at the stove tonight, I replied to a tweet from a blog friend on what we were having for dinner.  It was a pork mince and eggplant dish, to be eaten with rice.

On a side note - Isn't it great to be a woman and being able to multi-task?  In the old days, we'd be holding a child and balancing it on one hip, whilst stirring the pot with the other hand.  In modern times, its stirring the pot with one hand and social media in the other.  Wonder what both my nanas would make of this if they were both still alive today...

So back to dinner.  Another blog friend was following the tweet and asked if I could blog about this dish - but of course!  The tweet request actually came just in time.  We'd just finished our dinner and was about to pack up the leftovers.  So very quickly the leftovers went into a pretty chinese bowl so that I could take a few snaps for the post.  A few snaps later...

Hope you like this Emma!

Pork Mince and Eggplant in Spicy Bean Sauce
This is a very simple dish to put together since the sauce is made from pre-made bottled sauces!  I use Lee Kum Kee brand which is readily available even in regular supermarkets in NZ.  I avoid other brands. With Lee Kum Kee, there's no MSG or preservatives, and it's a brand I know well and trust.  But you're more than welcome to use whichever brand you prefer.  The measurements are guess-timates of what I used, since I didn't take any notes or use measuring spoons.

1 large eggplant*, chopped into roughly 2cm cubes, skin on
500g pork mince
2 garlic cloves, minced
2cm ginger, julienned
2 tbsp Black Bean Sauce
3-4 tbsp Spicy Bean Sauce (this is not a very spicy sauce at all despite it's name, so don't worry)
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp ground white pepper
Light soy sauce, to taste
1 cup water
Another 1/4 cup water
1 tbsp cornflour dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water
Light/neutral tasting oil for cooking (I use rice bran oil)

  1. Sprinkle the chopped eggplant with salt and place the eggplant either in a colander or spread out on a wire rack.  Place the colander or rack in the sink - the salt will draw out moisture from the eggplant and drip directly into the sink.
  2. 15 minutes later give the eggplant a quick (but good) rinse of cold water to rinse off the salt.  Dry the eggplant well either with a cotton tea towel or paper towels.
  3. Heat 1/3 cup of oil in a deep pan (or a wok-style pan) over high heat and fry the mince pork.  As you fry the mince, some of the bigger clumps will start to break up into smaller bits, but leave some of the slightly larger clumps as is.  Fry the pork until cooked but NOT browned.
  4. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for another minute.
  5. Add the eggplant, lower the heat to medium-high and fry until the eggplant and mince pork is nicely browned.
  6. Add the sauces, sesame oil and white pepper, and mix well.
  7. Add the cup of water and soy sauce to taste, depending on how salty you like your food.
  8. Bring the mixture to boil and then lower the heat to medium, cover loosely and cook until the sauce has reduced by 1/2.
  9. Add the 1/4 cup of water and stir in the cornflour mixture.  You'll notice that the sauce will thicken and turn slightly opaque and shiny almost immediately.  Cook for another 5-10 minutes, stirring every now and again.
  10. Best served with jasmine rice.** 

*I used the large dark purple skinned variety that's readily available in supermarkets.  I believe these are called Imperial Black Beauty.  But you can use the long skinny ones as well, just use several).

**I found organic brown jasmine rice at Commonsense Organics and tried it, and gotta say, I'm sold!  Try it.


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