Monday, 18 February 2013

Grilled Aubergines in Nuoc Cham

When I'm feeling particularly poorly or over-indulged, it's usually this dish I want to make. Served lukewarm or at room temperature, the aubergines are cooked twice and then covered in a sweet, spicy, sour dressing, tinged with fish sauce and smashed through with garlic - basically, nuoc cham. 

Originally, the recipe came to me with the aubergine grilled whole until collapsed, the insides scraped out and mashed through with the dressing. I experimented with this version by flame-roasting it against a gas burner before peeling, creating a smoky result. Too smoky, even, and too rich for my tastebuds that cried out for something lighter. So I took it back to basics; for me, aubergines get their best texture when you give them a good double cooking. Slim Asian aubergines were split into four lengthways, their flesh held together by the stem at the top. Fried for a few minutes in hot oil so that their skins are blistered and curling, they are then transferred to a oven dish and placed under the grill to ensure the insides are soft and silky. 

Coriander is fairly essential for this, with perhaps mint being of less importance - I've made it without, but it is better with.

Grilled Aubergines with Nuoc Cham

Serves 2 with other dishes

3 Asian aubergines or use a normal aubergine cut into fingers
4 tbsp vegetable oil
A handful of coriander
Half the amount of mint

Slice the aubergines lengthways into 4, keeping the stem intact so it holds the aubergine together. Heat the oil in a wok until almost smoking, turn the heat down to medium and fry the aubergines well, turning occasionally. Do not burn. Set aside, laying the aubergines in an oven dish. Cook under a medium grill for 20 minutes, turning the aubergines half way through. 

Chop the mint finely, and the coriander roughly. Set to one side. If you have roots on your coriander stalks, wash them well, chop them finely, and add them to the pestle and mortar to be ground into the nuoc cham sauce.

For the Nuoc Cham: 

Essentially, this sauce should be made as you like it. Keep tasting and adding as some will prefer it more sour, some sweeter, some more or less spicy. This is how I like mine. 

1 bird's eye chilli (use more if you like it really hot, less if you don't)
1 fat clove of garlic
2 tsp brown sugar
1 lime
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp water 

In a pestle and mortar, crush the clove of garlic with the sugar until it is a smooth paste. Deseed the chilli and chop it roughly, then add to the mortar and give it a good pestling. Add the lime juice, mix well. Add 1 tbsp of fish sauce, taste. Add 1 tbsp water, taste. Keep doing this until you have the desired piquancy or pungency that you like. Remember you can always add but you can't take away. 

To assemble, place the aubergines in a dish while warm and pour the dressing over. Garnish with the chopped mint and the coriander, and serve with rice. 


The Grubworm said...

Aubergines are one of those vegetables for all occasions. Dress them up in smoky, chilli heat and plenty of salty-sweet and umami flavours and you have something to excite. On the other hand their delightfully creamy texture can be harnessed for something altogether more gentle and calming. Like this. Ace dish, it's bookmarked.

Damn I love these vegetables/berries (whatever they actually are)

Miss Whiplash said...

Aubergine and nuoc cham are independently two of the most delicious things on earth. I see no reason to believe that combining them like this might not be the actual best thing ever...

Tang said...

I never get bored of eating aubergines. They can take so many different flavours - smoky, hot, sour, salty etc. Thanks for sharing this recipe! I am going to try it!

Helen said...

This looks ACEBAGS. And actually healthy. ME NO UNDERSTAND.

littleswallow said...

Want. So much. Aubergine is definitely in my top 2 veg of all time. This is going on the list to cook.

Jessica Ellis said...

Is that an eggplant? It is one of my favorite veggies and I only knew two ways to cook, fry and omelet. Now I know how to cook in other way. Thanks much for sharing, I'm gonna try this at home soon after my travel to Morocco.

Hollow Legs said...

Grubbers - They are so good aren't they? In all their forms.

Miss Whiplash - stinky stinky fish sauce turning into delicious nuoc cham. Magic stuff.

Tang - Me neither! constantly looking for new recipes with aubergine.

Helen - IT WAS GREAT. You can deep fry the aubs first if you like. That'll cancel some healthiness out.

Christine - Let me know how it goes! What's the other veg?

Jessica - yup, eggplants = aubergines. Omelet sounds interesting?

Alex said...

There's more than one birds eye in that picture, surely?

Explody Full said...

I am making this when I get home. I love eggplant and this looks delicious omg! Have you ever had salt and pepper eggplant? so good.

Hollow Legs said...

Alex - there was actually 2 but it was FREAKING spicy, especially when you pound it in a pestle and mortar so I took it down in the recipe.

Explody - OOOH. I've never made them. Have you got a recipe please?

Unknown said...

I am definitely making this!!! Love your recipes!! <3

Explody Full said...

Unfortunately I've only tried making it once and it wasn't that good. It's battered and fried into chips and sprinkled with salt, pepper and fresh chili - I have it at a Chinese restaurant back home.

Paul said...

That was delicious. (Couldn't resist chargrilling the aubergines, though.) Thanks!

S said...

One of the reasons why I like your blog - you love aubergines, like me. I havent been reading blogs too often these days (Tiny Spoon duties!) - but was so pleased to see this recipe on your blog - scrummy. x s

Anonymous said...

This looks fantastically simple. We love Vietnamese food after our recent trip to Vietnam. Will definitely be trying this dish with lashings of nuoc cham.
Rich & Stu @deli_beli