How do you prepare your eggplant? Indonesian love to prepare eggplant dishes with plenty of sauce which goes really well with steamed white rice. One of my favorite eggplant dish is this terong saus tomat pedas – eggplant in spicy tomato sauce. A great thing about this dish is you can adjust the strength of heat by using different types of chilies. If you want a milder dish, use fresno chilies. If you want a super spicy dish, go with Thai red chilies. And when you simply cannot tolerate any heat at all, feel free to sub with red bell pepper.
This time I use eggplant that is common in United States, which is more oval and round with a darker skin color. If you have access to Asian market, you can buy the thinner and longer eggplants. The ones you buy from Asian market is closer to what you get in Indonesia. Either way, just chop your eggplant into big bite size pieces.
Eggplant and Deep Frying
Most Indonesian eggplant dishes will require deep frying the eggplant first before further cooking with sauce. I know that deep frying is not exactly a chore most people are fond of, but when it comes to eggplant, there is no avoiding it. You can try coating with oil and roast in oven, but the final dish is just not quite the same as the one I get back at home, to my taste buds at least.
Here comes the sauce
Finally, it’s time to make the sauce. Simply sauté the aromatics (garlic, ginger, and chilies), and season with tomato ketchup, kecap manis, fish sauce, pepper, sugar, and water. Once the sauce boils, add the fried eggplants, and toss gently to coat. Transfer the cooked dish to a serving plate and garnish with thinly sliced scallions.
Eggplant is a very mild and bland vegetable, so I like to pair it with bold tasting sauce like Indonesian kecap manis and plenty of chilies. If you haven’t gotten to try Indonesian kecap manis, you are really missing out. Do yourself a favor and get one bottle already. Once you do, give this terong kecap pedas – spicy sweet soy sauce eggplant recipe a try.
Typically, Indonesian use the thin lanky Chinese eggplant regularly available in Chinese grocery store. But if your home is far from any Asian grocery, you can use standard American eggplant too. In fact, I am using American eggplant in this very photo shoot 🙂 They are pretty interchangeable, so no need to worry.
Walk into any decent Padang restaurant, and you will be greeted with mountains of delicious food of your choosing. I’m talking rendang sapi, gulai nangka, soto Padang, kalio ayam, ayam pop, ayam bakar, sambal lado, and yup, balado.
Balado is a red hot spicy sauce that you can use to stir fry all kind of food, with prawns, squids, eggs, potatoes, and eggplants being the most popular choice. I’ll share with you how to prepare terong balado (eggplants with chili sauce) in this recipe, but feel free to use it any way you like it.
How to prepare eggplants for a balado
For terong balado, you want to use Chinese eggplants, which are more slender and have softer skin compared to regular US eggplants.
The first thing to do is to remove the stems from the eggplants, then cut into bite-size wedges, and soaked in salty cold water to prevent the flesh from turning brown.
Next step is to deep fry eggplants for 1 to 2 minutes to bring out the color.
The final step is to cook the balado sauce and then stir fry the deep fried eggplants in the sauce.
You will want plenty of steamed white rice to go with your terong balado. Enjoy! ♥
Terasi/belacan/shrimp paste is an important ingredient in Indonesian culinary. We use it to prepare Indonesian most popular chili sauce, sambal terasi, and it is also present in many Indonesian dishes. Today’s recipe for this delicious terong saus terasi (eggplant with spicy shrimp paste sauce) also uses terasi to give it a rich umami flavor.
What is terasi/belacan/shrimp paste?
Terasi is made from tiny shrimps fermented with salt. It is shaped into a block with dark chocolate color. It has a very pungent smell, akin to a highlyl condensed and intense smell of fish sauce.
It can be hard to find Indonesian terasi sold in the United States. I use Malaysian belacan most of the time and it tastes almost exactly like Indonesian terasi. If your market doesn’t have terasi nor belacan, you can also try Thai shrimp paste.
I hope you will be able to find one of these three and use it to prepare this lovely dish.
How to use/toast terasi
Terasi/belacan must be toasted before using it. Cut the amount called for in a recipe, and toast it until the color is pale and becomes crumbly.
The easiest method will be putting the shrimp paste in a microwave-proof bowl, cover the bowl with a microwave-proof plate, and cook for 30 seconds. This is usually enough to toast the terasi properly.
If you don’t own a microwave, you can also pan-fry the terasi in a frying pan without any oil until pale and crumbly. Using an oven toaster works too, or if you have a gas stove, use a pair of tongs to grab the terasi and stick it in the open flame.
Ingredients for terong saus terasi
This recipe needs eggplants, tomatoes, red chilies, shallot, garlic, terasi/belacan/shrimp paste, kaffir lime leaves, scallions, salt, and sugar.
Indonesian eggplants are similar to Chinese eggplants, which are slimmer and lankier than their American cousins. But you don’t have to use Chinese eggplants for this dish. I was using American globe eggplants when I prepared this recipe.
I use dried Thai red chilies since that’s the most convenient and reliable chilies I stock at home. I simply soak the dried chilies in hot water until soft before using it.
You can use fresh red chilies too if you do have them in your kitchen.
The number of chilies is not exact and you can adjust the amount to suit your preferred spiciness level of the final dish.
Preparing eggplant for frying
A successful stir-fried eggplant dish depends more on how you prep the eggplants, and less on the variety of eggplants you decide to use for that dish.
Eggplants, be it Chinese eggplants or American globe eggplants, have so much excess air distributed within their spongy cell networks. This trapped air is the reason why frying eggplants, untreated, or as-is, tends to make eggplants stick and burn when you stir-fry them. So how do we avoid this?
The most fail-proof and easiest method that I have found over the years is by cutting eggplants into wedges, and soak them in a big bowl of salted water. Usually for two medium-size eggplants, soaking them in a mixture of 2 quarts water and 1/3 cup salt for 30 minutes should break down the cell structure and the eggplants will fry beautifully.
Remember to drain the eggplants and pat dry them well with paper towels so they won’t splatter when fried in hot oil.
Cooking the eggplant dish
First, use a food processor or a blender with a spice attachment to grind together red chilies, shallot, garlic, and toasted shrimp paste into a smooth paste.
Next, heat a wok over medium-high heat until hot, then add 4 tablespoons of oil and swirl to coat the wok. Add eggplant wedges into the wok sear until golden brown. Set aside.
Lower the heat to a medium, there should be some oil left in the wok, but if there isn’t, add a little more oil so it comes to about 2 tablespoons. Add the spice paste and kaffir lime leaves and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add tomato, salt, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until tomato wilts.
Return fried eggplants into the wok and turn up the heat to medium-high. Once it boils, reduce the heat to a medium and cook until eggplant is soft and tender, and the sauce has reduced.
Turn off the heat. Transfer the dish to a serving plate and garnish with thinly sliced scallions.
Other recipes using terasi
If you love terasi and would like to use it more to prepare other dishes, you can try some of these recipes: